Late Friday morning, the Florida Panthers made two big announcements about the upcoming season.
Ed Jovanovski was named the 7th captain in franchise history. Brian Campbell and Stephen Weiss were named the assistant captains, and forward Alex Kovalev officially became a Panther.
Jovanovski was originally drafted first overall by the franchise in 1994 and played his first three and a half National Hockey League years in South Florida. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks part-way through the 1998-1999 season and it would be 11 seasons before he would return to his original franchise. In his first year back with the Cats (2011-2012), Jovanovski was one of four alternate captains along with Campbell, Weiss and Tomas Kopecky. He will look to bounce back from his previous two seasons in which he had 14 and 13 points in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 years, respectively. Although he is happy for the honor, “Jovo” as he nicknamed, isn’t planning on changing much this season.
Also announced via twitter, was the team and forward Alex Kovalev have agreed to a one-year contract. Kovalev, who was invited to training camp on a pro tryout contract, made the best of the shortened training camp. Kovalev will likely begin his 19th NHL season on the Panthers second line with young phenom Jonathan Huberdeau and another veteran looking to resurrect his career in Peter Mueller.
This could be the line that gives the Panthers not only two great scoring lines five-on-five, but also add a scoring punch on the power play. Kovalev’s 132 career power play goals is eighth best amongst active NHLers, and most on the Panthers. He should get plenty of chances to add to that total as the Panthers ranked ninth in powerplay opportunities last season and were seventh best in converting on those attempts.
All of this news adds even more excitement to the Panthers opening night. Florida is set to open the 2012-13 season at home against a division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes. The puck drops at the Bank Atlantic Center at 7:30pm. Unfortunately, the Panthers will be without Marcel Goc, Sean Bergenheim and Erik Gudbranson as they are recovering from injuries sustained during the lockout.
According to FloridaPanthers.com, this also means the trio is suspended until they are cleared for contact since the injuries were sustained during the offseason.