NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After twice earning All-Big Ten honors while at Michigan State, North Providence’s Dennis Cesana landed a professional opportunity with the Florida Panthers organization.

The defenseman is spending his rookie season with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.

“We have a really good team, close-knit group, so it’s been a lot of fun for me personally to have a lot of older guys to look up,” Cesana told 12 Sports.

“People don’t realize how good the American Hockey League is,” Checkers coach Gordie Kinnear added. “It’ a very good league, a very hard league. There’s not a lot of time and space, but what we love about Dennis is he is able to make plays in traffic areas and allow us to play fast.”

Cesana was invited to the Panthers development camp this July.

“That was definitely cool for me, definitely a confidence boost to be on the ice with those guys and know there’s not that much of a difference,” he said. “Just got to keep working on improving every day and showing I have what it takes to compete at the next level too.”

The Checkers have moved into the top half of the Atlantic Division just past the halfway point of the season.

“Our division is probably the tightest in the AHL, so just coming in like every game is a playoff mindset now and trying to get wins and keep moving up in the standings,” Cesana said. “I’m excited to see what we can do in the playoffs, down in the nitty gritty, and I think we have a group to do something cool here.”