By Alex DiFilippo
It’s an exciting time to be a Florida Panthers prospect.
The organization’s pipeline was recently ranked No. 1 by ESPN.COM for the second straight season. And with the Panthers winning the Southeast Division and making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, you can see why things are looking up for the franchise.
The Rampage also felt the positive effects from its parent club. Last season, the team had its most successful year to date – making the playoffs and winning its first postseason series in franchise history.
A key component of that playoff series’ victory was defenseman Alex Petrovic, who joined the team as a rookie late in the year after completing his fifth season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.
Petrovic, the 2011-12 WHL Defenseman of the Year, made his presence felt from the get-go with the Rampage. He skated in five regular season games for the team before heating up in the playoffs, recording six points (2g, 4a) in nine games.
“For my first playoffs as a pro, it gave me a lot of confidence that I can play at this level, which I’ll take into Panthers’ training camp with me,” Petrovic said. “I can tell myself that ‘I can play with those guys,’ and strive for excellence.”
As an offensive-defenseman, Petrovic was a key component of the Rampage’s power-play during the playoffs – a role he is looking to continue this season.
“Coach [Chuck Weber] had a lot of confidence in me when I joined the team,” Petrovic said. “It was my turn to step in and I played with some great guys who helped me along the way. That’s why we were so successful as a power-play unit during the playoffs.”
To stay in shape in the offseason, Petrovic has focused on his stability and foot quickness through stair running and cardio exercises. He has also worked to put on several pounds of lean muscle to help his physical game.
“I’ve added about seven pounds of muscle this season, but I don’t want to put on too much weight because then you start to sacrifice speed and quickness,” he said. “At this level, you don’t want to sacrifice that.”
Petrovic also attended the Panthers prospects camp in July, giving him an opportunity to meet some of the club’s fellow up-and-comers.
“The prospects camp was fun because you have the opportunity to go there and show people you haven’t met who you are,” he said. “You get to know other guys, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well.”
In addition to skating twice a week, Petrovic has been spending some time this offseason golfing and fishing back in Red Deer, Alberta. But as the summer winds down, he’s counting down the days to the start of the hockey season.
“We have to build off of last year,” he said of the upcoming Rampage season. “We’d like to finish higher in the standings and go further in the playoffs. You always want to progress and get better each year.
“But I can’t wait for September to come because I just love the game. I live for it.”