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Derek MacKenzie named Panthers captain

Veteran forward ninth to receive honor; Aaron Ekblad, Jussi Jokinen will be alternates

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Forward Derek MacKenzie was named the ninth captain in Florida Panthers history Sunday.

MacKenzie was captain when Florida played a preseason game against the New Jersey Devils at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, on Saturday, and replaces Willie Mitchell, who served as captain for the past two seasons.

"It's hard to put into words right now," MacKenzie told the Panthers website. "It's a little overwhelming. Obviously we did this a few years ago with Willie Mitchell and it will be tough shoes to fill but we have a great group of guys. It could have gone to a handful (of players). For them to think of me, it's pretty special. It's something I'll never forget."

MacKenzie, entering his third year with the Panthers, had six goals and 13 points in 64 games last season. The 13-year veteran signed a two-year contract extension reportedly worth $2.7 million that runs through the 2018-19 season on July 6.

"Derek embodies the type of character and work ethic we want a Florida Panther to possess," Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon said. "He is a respected leader both on and off the ice in this organization and within the South Florida community. We are very excited to move forward with Derek as our team's captain."

On Friday, before naming MacKenzie captain, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told the Miami Herald the decision was made "long ago, but it was a tough decision for sure. ... It wasn't just mine; it was management, mine, assistant coaches."

The 35-year-old, who was an alternate captain last season, led Panthers forwards in shorthanded ice time per game (2:38).

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Jussi Jokinen were named alternate captains.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes are the remaining NHL teams without a captain. The Edmonton Oilers named Connor McDavid (19 years, 266 days) the youngest captain in NHL history on Wednesday.

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