Petrovic is happy to be a Panther

It’s been almost two weeks since the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was held in Los Angeles.

And for young Red Deer Rebels defenseman Alex Petrovic, the results are still sinking in.

“Pretty excited to be picked,” said the 18-year-old Edmonton native, who was selected early on in the second round, 36th overall by the Florida Panthers.

“Florida is a good organization, and I think it’ll be a really good opportunity for me.”

The 6 ft 4 in. rearguard was ranked 34th amongst North American skaters in the mid-season rankings, and saw his placing jump to 29th by season’s end.

He was also ranked 35th overall by TSN hockey guru Bob McKenzie.

“I knew Florida had some interest in me,” said Petrovic, who put up eight goals and 27 points to go along with 87 penalty minutes this past WHL season, and knew of at least four teams who were thinking of calling his name at the draft.

“I talked to them during the combine, and then met with them again just before the draft. They asked me if it would bother me if I went in the second round. I said it wouldn’t bother me at all. Then they told me they were going to take me if I was still around when it was their turn. And they did.”

Many in the hockey world, including Pittsburgh Penguin’s scout Wayne Meier and Jeff Crisp, who scouts for the Anaheim Ducks, had Petrovic pegged as a late first round or early second round after watching him battle for Red Deer at various points in the season.

“Alex is a big kid who uses his frame well,” said Meier, who took in a February game against Prince George at the ENMAX Centrium just to watch Petrovic patrol the blue line.

“I’m a bit of a throwback, an old school hockey guy, so I like the d-men to be big, physical and mean, and that’s what Alex is. He’s got great raw talent. Still needs a bit of fine tuning, but that’s what junior hockey is for.”

“Alex is a good player, and he’s one that we had on our list,” said Crisp.

The Florida Panthers are in the midst of yet another rebuild, having recently turfed general manager Randy Sexton in favour of Dale Tallon, who took the Chicago Blackhawks from perennial Western Conference doormats to Stanley Cup champs.

And while Tallon was axed by the ‘Hawks in the summer of 2009, his fingerprints are all over the Chicago line up, and that fact doesn’t escape Petrovic.

“He knows how to build a winner,” Petrovic said of Tallon.

“Look what he did in Chicago. And with some of the moves he’s made since taking over the Panthers, I think this could be a really good fit for me.”

It was a whirlwind weekend in Los Angeles for the young blue liner, whose parents were in the stands at the Staples Centre when his name was called, and he managed to spend some of his time in Southern Cal on things not related to hockey.

“My mom and dad came down with me, and we saw some of the sights, but we didn’t have a car because the rental company lost our reservation,” he laughed.

“Other than that, the whole weekend was a really good experience. And it was good to have my parents with me. It helped with the nerves.”

If there was one minor disappointment Petrovic had during his trip to California, it’s that he didn’t hear his name called by his hometown Edmonton Oilers, who kicked things off on the Saturday with the first pick of the second round.

“That would have been awesome,” he admitted.

“But it didn’t happen, and I’m really excited to be a Panther.”

Petrovic is expected to attend training camp for Florida this fall, meaning he’ll miss either parts or all of Rebels training camp, which opens Aug. 29th.