Florida Panthers by the numbers: Number 5

Nine Cats have worn this digit - choose your favorite

The number five has been worn by a total of nine Florida Panthers in franchise history, from the original holder Gord Murphy to Aaron Ekblad, the most recent to sport the digit. Like the numbers two, three and four, every one of the players to wear the number has been a defenseman. Let’s take a look at this cast of characters...

Gord Murphy

The Panthers plucked Murphy, who had six seasons of NHL experience, off the roster of the Boston Bruins in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft and he ended playing in all 84 games and led the new club’s defensemen in scoring with 14 goals, 29 assists and a career-high 43 points. He would go on to play five more seasons for the Cats, including 14 games in the run to the 1996 Stanley Cup final, before he was traded as part of a package to another expansion team, the Atlanta Thrashers for goaltender Trevor Kidd on June 25, 1999, Murphy played two seasons in Atlanta before calling it a career after a short stint with the Bruins in 2001-02. He played a total of 410 games for Florida, producing 44 goals and 142 points. Murphy returned to the organization as an assistant coach from 2010 to 2014.

Filip Kuba

Kuba was selected in the 8th round (192nd overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft after playing with HC Vítkovice’s junior team in the Czech Republic. He remained in his home country for one more season, playing with Vítkovice’s senior team  in the Extraliga. Kuba spent most of his time with the Panthers in the minors, but did play in five games in 1998-99 (one assist) and another 13 in 1999-20, where scored his first NHL goal and added five helpers. On March 16, 2000 he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Rocky Thompson in what turned out to be a really bad deal for the Cats. Kuba blossomed with the Wild and spent the next five seasons in St. Paul. He played two years with Tampa Bay and four with the Ottawa Senators before he returned to Sunrise on two-year, $8 million contract. He made 44 appearance in 2012-13 and scored his final NHL goal and added 9 assists while going -18. On July 3, 2013, Dale Tall bought out the final year of his deal, ending his career.

Yan Golubovsky

A former first round pick (23rd overall) of the Detroit Red Wings in 1994, the Panthers acquired Golubovsky for center Igor Larionov on December 28, 2000 after he played a total of 50 games with his original club. He played just six games with Cats, collecting two assists, and another 30 for the Louisville Panthers (1G/12A) and 28 for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL. After the season, the rangy defenseman returned to Russia and spent the remainder of his career bouncing around Europe.

Brad Ference

A 10th overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1997, Ference was traded on January 17, 1999 along with Pavel Bure, Bret Hedican and third-round selection in the 2000 draft to the Panthers for Dave Gagner, Ed Jovanovski, Mike Brown, Kevin Weekes and a first-round selection in the 2000 draft. After some time in Louisville, Ference played his first 13 NHL games with the Cats in 1999-20 and picked up two assists. He appeared in 14 NHL games the next season, before becoming a full-timer in 2001-02. That season, he played in 80 games and scored his first NHL goals while adding 15 assists, Ference appeared in 60 games with Florida in 2002-03 before he was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes on March 8, 2003 for Darcy Hordichuk and a 2003 second-rounder.  He played an additional season with Coyotes before doing a season in France and spent most of the rest of his career in the AHL. Ference’s final five NHL games came in 2006-07 with the Calgary Flames.

Igor Ulanov

The Russian Ulanov compiled a 739-game NHL career while playing for a total of eight different teams after being a tenth round draft pick (203rd overall) of the original Winnipeg Jets in 1991. He was part of the package the New York Rangers sent the Panthers for a fading Pavel Bure on March 8, 2002. He played in 14 games for the Cats after the trad and picked up four assists. In 2002-03, Ulanov played in 56 games and scored his only goal with Florida and added an assist. Ulanov returned to the Edmonton Oilers for the next two seasons before he headed home to Russia to spend a season with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and another with Dynamo Minsk.

Jeff Norton

Like Ulanov, Norton, chosen in the third round (62nd overall) of the 1984 draft by the New York Islanders, was a journeyman defenseman who played for eight NHL teams before finishing his career with Frisk Asker in Norway. The Panthers acquired Norton, along with Dino Ciccarelli, from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mark Fitzpatrick and Jody Hull on January 15, 1998. Norton played 19 games, wearing number 6, and put up 7 assists after that trade. He played just three games with the Cats to start the 1998-99 campaign before he was traded on November 11 to the San Jose Sharks for Alex Hicks. Norton returned to Sunrise and played 29 games (4 assists) with the Panthers at the beginning of the 2001-02 season before he was traded to the Boston Bruins for a sixth round draft pick in 2002 (Mikael Vuorio). It was during this second stint with the Cats that Norton sported the number five.

Branislav Mezei

After being selected 10th overall in 1999, the Czech-born Mezei played two seasons with the New York Islanders organization, including 66 games with the big club, before he was shipped off to the Panthers on July 3, 2002 for forward Jason Wiemer. He was a member of the Panthers from 2002 until 2008, playing a total of  178 games, producing just four goals and 17 points, with the club. Mezei joined KHL outfit Barys Astana at the start for the 2008-09 campaign. He spent the rest of his career playing in Europe and retired after the 2017-18 season. In addition to wearing the number five, he also donned the number two with the Panthers.

Bryan Allen

Drafted fourth overall in 1998, Allen was involved in the blockbuster trade that sent him, Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld to the Cats in exchange for Roberto Luongo, Lukáš Krajíček and a sixth-round draft pick on June 23, 2006. His first year in Florida, the 2006–07 season, would be the best of his career, as he set career highs with 21 assists and 25 points, in addition to 112 PIM, and established himself as one of Florida’s top-four blueliners. Allen played another 202 games with the Panthers (10G/32A) before he was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes on February 28, 2011 in exchange for forward Sergei Samsonov. He would play another season in Carolina before joining the Anaheim Ducks for three years. He retired after playing 5 games for the Montreal Canadiens in 2014-15.

Aaron Ekblad

The current holder of the number is the highly-paid core piece, Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad was selected first overall in the 2014 draft after playing three seasons with the OHL’s Barrie Colts and quickly set new franchise records for rookie defensemen in goals (12), assists (27), and points (39), winning the Calder Memorial Trophy for his stellar first season. He scored double-digit goals in each of his five NHL seasons, bagging a career-high (16) in 2017-18, and has appeared in two All-Star games. Ekblad produced five goals and career-high 41 points in 67 games before the current season was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Ekblad won a gold medal with Canada at the 2015 World Championship and represented Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Still just 24-years-old , the best should be yet to come for Ekblad.

Who is your favorite numero cinco?

Gord Murphy19
Filip Kuba1
Yan Golubovsky 0
Brad Ference0
Igor Ulanov0
Jeff Norton0
Branislav Mezei1
Bryan Allen3
Aaron Ekblad31