Alex Petrovic Photo Source: NHL.com

Panthers Blueline Starting To Get Crowded

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Note to Florida Panthers GMDale Tallon: Please don’t draft a defensemen with the third pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft. For a team with many glaring needs, defense is not one of them at the moment. Monday’s signing of Alex Petrovic, a second round pick in last year’s draft, to an entry level contract added another body to a growing impressive collection of d-men.

In addition to Petrovic, the Panthers have used their top pick in the past two drafts to select defensemen that could become staples for years to come in Erik Gudbranson (2010) and Dmitry Kulikov (2009). Kulikov continued his improvement after a rough start this past season and Gudbranson is expected to add toughness to a club that desperately needs it (You know he is a Rat Trick favorite!).

Those two will join the surprising top pair of Jason Garrison and Mike Weaver. The duo were steady most of the season and were a big reason in the success of the Panthers penalty killing unit.

Keaton Ellerby earned a starting spot for much of last season. He tapered off a bit later in the season after a good start. He did get bigger and more physical but he sometimes looked lost on the ice. He finished with 12 points (2 goals) and a -15 rating, which isn’t all that bad for a rookie d-man.

Petrovic is the latest piece of the puzzle. He spent the past four seasons playing with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 19 year old Edmonton native is coming off his best season in the WHL where he tallied 57 points (7 goals) and a 140 penalty minutes with a plus 27 rating. He might be a year or so away from making the big team, but help add to the same toughness in the future that Gudbranson is expected to bring this season.

That’s not to even mention Colby Robak and Clay Wilson. Wilson has played for a few NHL teams, but a solid 15 games in Sunrise this season (2g, 3a, +4) has earned him a spot on Team USA at this summer’s World Championships. Robak made the jump from the WHL to the American Hockey League this season after signing his ELC deal last May and there were some growing pains. He scored 24 points in 76 games (7 goals, -12 rating). The dropoff isn’t that unexpected as he went from playing in juniors, to playing against veterans. He’s going to have to have a strong off-season and training camp to avoid going back to the minors, but he does have upside.

So Dale: I believe in what you’re doing here, but PLEASE think offense in the draft! The blueline is covered for now!

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Tags: Alexander Petrovic American Hockey League Clay Wilson Colby Robak Dale Tallon Dmitry Kulikov Erik Gudbranson Jason Garrison Keaton Ellerby Mike Weaver Red Deer Rebels Western Hockey League

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