Scouting Report - Florida Panthers

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kraczkowski of SB Nation's Litter Box Cats gives us the low down on Boyes, Barkov and the rest of the Florida Panthers.

Winning is fun.  There's a chance the Oilers could win if they play their cards right.  This would require them to score more than they have over the past 185 minutes, but even a one legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond gets lucky now and again.

Tonight's opponents are the Panthers.  Kevin Kraczkowski of SB Nation's Litter Box Cats was kind enough to answer some questions about Tom Gilbert.  He was also nice enough to answer some questions about the rest of the Florida Panthers as well.

Thanks to Kevin for his time.

Jeff Chapman: The Panthers made a handful of signings on the cheap with guys like Brad Boyes, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney.  Boyes is currently tied with Aleksander Barkov for second in scoring on the Panthers, while Gilbert mans the blue line for an eternity each night. Which free agent acquisition has been the most effective so far this season?

..of all the free agents that the Panthers picked up, the obvious choice for who made the biggest impact is Brad Boyes.

Kevin Kraczkowski: Out of all the free agents that the Panthers picked up, the obvious choice for who made the biggest impact is Brad Boyes. When your team scores just 28 goals in their first 14 games, a guy with five of those goals takes on a little more importance. Tim Thomas would have had the most impact of all the new guys, but he keeps getting his hamstring hurt. Gilbert is second on the Panthers blue line (to Brian Campbell) with 21:18 ATOI. Campbell has the all-star level talent, but Mike Weaver and Gilbert are the blue collar guys of the bunch.

JC: The Oilers have allowed the most total goals in the NHL with a staggering 59 goals in 15 games, while the Panthers are tied for most goals allowed in the East alongside Buffalo with 49.  Which position is most to blame?  Goaltending?  Defence?

KK: If I had to pick one, it'd be the defense. Rather - the forwards don't know how to backcheck and the defensemen aren't always paying attention. Both groups could be a little better at completing passes in their own zone. It's true that third-stringer Scott Clemmensen seems to have lost something these last two seasons, but the Jacob Markstrom/Tim Thomas combination has a lot of possibility. Markstrom's .881 save percentage should not be interpreted as a lack of skill on his part, but rather serious lapses on the blueline.

JC: Who has been this year's biggest surprise?  Biggest disappointment?

KK: Jesse Winchester - formerly of the Ottawa Senators and a guy who didn't spend any time at the NHL level last season, has really come through for the Panthers. Nobody works harder and accomplishes as much with as little skill. He had 11 goals and 41 assists in 233 games coming into the season. This year, he has three goals and two helpers in only 14 contests. The biggest disappointment for me thus far has been the uninspired play of Kris Versteeg, who took most of 2012-13 off, and the lack of scoring from Tomas Kopecky, who led the Cats in goals last season. Panthers fans are getting a little itchy and wondering why the front office doesn't try to trade or send down Versteeg. And it looks to me like Kopecky is injured somehow.

JC: The Panthers selected second overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, and they selected centre Alexander Barkov with the pick.   Barkov looks like a total package on blades. What's the strongest part about this guy's game?

KK: I thought that the Panthers would pass on Barkov and draft Seth Jones with the second overall pick, however, we all know that's not what happened. After 14 games, Barkov has three goals on 20 shots, along with four assists, currently skating on Florida's top line. He's flanked by leading scorer Tomas Fleischmann (three goal, seven assists) and Calder Memorial Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau (three goals, three assists). His surprisingly strong play is evidenced by his 16:19 average time on ice, ranking third amongst Panthers forwards. This has resulted in him being elevated to the first line and hopefully even more scoring opportunities. At only 18 years of age, he still has a few pounds to pack on his 6'3", 209 pound frame, but he has already shown that he can handle the speed and pressure of the NHL game (and NHL defensemen). In a recent gamethread, I heard a comparison to Evgeni Malkin, and I know that he is by no means on that level, yet, I do believe that it's possible just from what I've seen.

JC: Finally,  Vincent Viola officially became the owner of the Florida Panthers in late September, closing a chapter of uncertainty for the franchise.  What's your opinion of him so far?

KK: I'm still waiting to see what happens, but he'll get on my good side if he makes some kind, any kind of move real soon. Whether it's something like I already mentioned with Versteeg, some turnover on the coaching staff, or trading some high end prospects for an established NHL talent. The jury is still out. I'm willing to wait to see what he's got in store.

The Edmonton Oilers take on the Florida Panthers tonight at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

Check out more of Kevin at Litter Box Cats, follow him on Twitter @yxnarbob

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