Florida Panthers by the numbers: Number 2
Is Josh Brown your fave or is it one of the Cats of yore?
After seeing just three Florida Panthers goalies sport the number 1 in franchise history, thanks to Roberto Luongo keeping the number on relative lock, the next digit has been worn by a total of nine players, all defensemen, over the years starting with Joe Cirella and running through current holder, Josh Brown. Let’s take a look.
Florida’s original #2, the Panthers chose the veteran blueliner early in the 1993 expansion draft and he played 63 games the club during its inaugural season, producing 1 goal and 9 assists. He finished the year with a +8-rating and 99 PIM. Cirella appeared in only 20 games in 1994-95 and posted just one assist. He played his final six NHL games with the Ottawa Senators in 1995-96 and called it a playing career after spending the 1996-97 season with the Cologne Sharks of the DEL. Cirella returned to the Panthers as an assistant coach in 1997-98 before moving on to the OHL to continue his coaching career.
Best known for his five seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, veteran tough guy Carkner picked the right time to sign with the Panthers as free agent, inking a two-year deal with the newish club in the summer of 1995 after spending the previous two seasons in Detroit. Florida made its miraculous run to the Stanley Cup final that year with Carkner appearing in 73 regular season games (3G/10A) and all 22 playoff contests. After playing 70 regular season games (14A) and in all five playoff games against the New York Rangers in 1996-97, Carkner spent an additional two years with the Panthers, suiting up for another 136 games and chipping in 19 points for the team before retiring. Carkner racked up 293 of his 1588 career PIM in his four seasons with the Cats. He played a season each with the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques before he became a Flyer.
Originally drafted in 1986 by the Minnesota North Stars and after playing parts of five seasons with the Ottawa Senators, late-bloomer Pitlick joined the Panthers for the 1999-00 season. He appeared in 62 regular season games (3G/5A) and played in all four games of the first round playoff loss to the New Jersey Devils. Pitlick suited up for 68 games during the 2000-01 campaign (1G/2A) and called it a career after playing 35 games for the Cats in 2001-02. During his final season he had two points, his final NHL goal and final NHL assist.
After a long run with the Montreal Canadiens that included a Stanley Championship in 1993, Odelein went on to play for the New Jersey Devils, Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars before he turned a PTO into a one-year deal with the Panthers. The 35-year-old blueliner appeared in all 82 games for the Cats during the 2003-04 season and put up 4 goals and 12 assists to along with 88 PIM and a -7 rating. Pretty good numbers on a team that struggled to finish with 75 points. After taking a year off, Odelein played his final 27 NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005-06.
The Panthers used the 24th overall draft in the 2001 draft on the Czech-born Krajicek, who was playing for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes at the time. He played in five scoreless games with the Panthers and 55 games for the Petes the next season. After putting up 53 points in 52 games in his final season of junior, Krajicek joined the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, where he would spend most of the next two years. He did appear in 18 games with Florida in 2003-04, scoring his first NHL goal while adding six assists. 2005-06 would see Krajicek play his only full season for the Cats before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, along with Roberto Luongo, in a blockbuster deal that brought back Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld, and Bryan Allen. He suited up in 67 games for the Cats in ‘05-06 and produced two goals and 14 assists. Krajicek spent two seasons with the Canucks before he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he played a full season and then another 23 games before he was dealt to Philadelphia, where he played his final 27 appearances in the NHL. He would go on to play another nine seasons in Europe with HC Oceláři Třinec of the Czech Extraliga and Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.
The New York Islanders took this towering Czech-born defender 10th overall in the 1999 draft. After the draft, he played a final season in the OHL for the Belleville Bulls before splitting time with the Islanders (42 games) and AHL Lowell Lock Monsters (20 games) in 2000-01. The next season saw him make just 24 appearances for the Isles and he was traded to the Panthers on July 3, 2002 for forward Jason Wiemer (remember him?). Mezei would play a total of 178 games with the Cats between 2002 and 2008. He produced a career-best seven assists and seven points while playing in 45 games of the 2003-04 season. He scored a career-high two goals (and added two assists) and played in career-high 57 games during the 2007-08 campaign. That was his final season in Florida before he returned to Europe. He finally retired after the 2017-18 season, which was fourth with Slovak club HK Nitra.
Like previous wearer Mezei, Ballard was another former first round pick, taken 11th overall in 2002 by the Buffalo Sabres. Before making his NHL debut, Ballard was traded twice, first to the Colorado Avalanche and then to the Phoenix Coyotes, where he played his first three seasons in the league. During the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Ballard (and defenseman Nick Boyton and a second-round pick in the draft) came to the Panthers in exchange for center Olli Jokinen. Ballard put up six goals and 34 points in his first season with the Cats and followed that up by matching his career-high in goals (8) and producing 28 points in 2009-10. On June 25, 2010, Ballard was traded back west to the Vancouver (along with winger Victor Oreskovich) in exchange for Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and the Canucks first-round pick (25th overall), which was used to select prospect Quinton Howden. Ballard went on to play three seasons for the Canucks and another two for the Minnesota Wild before he retired in 2015.
A third-round choice of the Nashville in 2003, Sulzer played parts of three seasons with the Predators after finally arriving from Germany in 2007 before he was traded to the Panthers on February 25, 2010 in exchange for a conditional draft pick. After the trade, Sulzer made nine appearances and drew one assist in what turned out to be a very brief stint for the Cats. During the offseason, Sulzer became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Later that season, he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres. He played a total of 57 games with Buffalo before he returned to Germany for good to play for Kölner Haie of the DEL.
Along with Krajicek, Brown is only the second home-grown Panther to sport the number two. Brown was the first selection of the sixth round (152nd overall) of the 2013 draft. After four seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, he split time between the Portland Pirates (AHL) and Manchester Monarchs (ECHL) in 2014-15. After another two-plus seasons in the AHL with the Springfield Thunderbirds, Brown made his NHL debut in a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 18, 2019. He played 36 more games for the Cats that season and scored his first NHL goal on March 10 against the Detroit Red Wings and he registered his first assist on March 23 against the Boston Bruins. This season, Brown appeared in 56 games and produced 3 goals, 5 assists and 39 PIM before the NHL postponed its remaining schedule due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Who is your favorite Panthers #2?