“Obviously, I picked up on my foot speed and my transitional game from defense to joining the rush and did really well. I put up a lot of points this year…just a lot better with my offensive skills this year.”
Petrovic had strong enough numbers following his 2009-10 season to be drafted in the second round of that year’s NHL Entry Draft (36th overall). He had already established himself as a hard-nosed physical defenseman but began showing flashes of his offensive upside after an early ankle injury. As he slightly tailed off at the end of the season, it gave some the opportunity to question just how much better he could get at the offensive end of the ice.
What a difference a year makes.
The 6-foot-4 Edmonton native responded by more than doubling his point total for the year, totaling 57 points (7 goals) and an eye-catching +27 rating. Now granted (and even he admitted it) playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, helps, it’s the hard work put in that led to his improvement.
Even if he has strong camps (rookie and veteran in September, it’s unlikely he will start the season with the Panthers, by virtue of the sheer number of defensemen currently under contract if nothing else. He became the second player from the last year’s draft class, signing 4/18. Which means, because of his age (20), he is eligible to play in the AHL with new affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. It also means, he’s an injury call-up away from getting some early NHL experience.
Had he been draft eligible this season, he might have been a top-20 pick with the season he had, making his selection at 36 in the 2010 draft an incredible value. Imagine if you will, Panther fans, the prospect Erik Gudbranson and Petrovic somewhere down the road. The next Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook? That’s a little premature (and of course, both of them being right-handed shots is an obstacle), but the upside is there.
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