At 6-4-2, the Florida Panthers are off to their best start since their last playoff run in the 1999-2000 season. There seems to be a certain level of confidence with this years team that has been shown and represented in multiple comeback games. While the team efforts have been successful, the individual efforts have varied. The following is my report card of the individual Panther players based on the first twelve games.
Sean Bergenheim: B+
He started the season off looking like the Sean Bergenheim who tallied 11 points in 16 playoff games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. Unfortunately, he had an injury set back that could quite possibly take him awhile to bounce back from. He is a solid two-way player who shows a lot of versatility. He posses good skill, speed, and isn’t afraid to get tough along the boards.
Matt Bradley: B
This tenacious winger has been a solid 4th line player. He has been impressive offensively and is enjoyable to watch. He has good size and has embraced the enforcer role so far for the Cats this year. While he may not be considered one of the heavy weights, he is not afraid to drop the gloves at anytime for another teammate.
This speedy-winger has brought creativity and productivity to the first line and has really proven himself in the last few games. Fleischmann has recorded an incredible 4 goals and 4 assists in a six-game scoring streak, and is tied for 2nd on the team with 11 points. However, he sometimes has an issue of making one too many unnecessary plays and has the tendency of holding the puck for too long.
Marcel Goc: A
Marcel Goc can be considered a solid two-way player, but excels more on the defensive side. He displays versatility with each line he plays on and is always playing with determination and desire. Goc is a well-rounded type of player who posses a little bit of every quality a player needs. He is a face-off guru with a 54.3% win percentage and isn’t afraid to get dirty in front of the net.
Kopecky is a hard-nosed player who gets down and dirty in front of the net. He is a fairly big-bodied winger who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He is not the prettiest skater but his contributions are endless in all facets of the game.
Shawn Matthias: B-
Matthias is beginning to find his role amongst the fourth line. He has a two-way potential and is one of the fastest players and most skilled skaters amongst the Panthers roster. In order for Shawn to be the talented player he was with the Bellville Bulls back in juniors, he needs to work on his passing skills and learn to use his large size to his advantage.
Mike Santorelli: B-
While his play on the ice hasn’t been spectacular due to a shoulder injury in the pre-season, it’s only a matter of time before this playmaker gets his groove back. He is the type of player who is able to showoff his creative skills on all three forward positions. Other than having to regain his strength from his recent injury, Santorelli needs to redevelop his quickness and he will most likely be the Mike Santorelli that scored 20 goals last season.
Jack Skille: B-
Skille is a very skilled and powerful skater who works hard with every shift he plays. He makes hard hits and is determined to win every battle. He shows serious signs of potential but can be very inconsistent in all facets of the game.
Marco Sturm: C+
Sturm seems to be having difficulty finding his role which can always be challenging in a new city and with a new team. Although he has only appeared in 4 games with the Panthers, he caused quite a few turnovers and an important goal against the Senators. Despite a few errors, you can see that he posses a good hockey sense and good speed. Once he finds his place amongst the team, I believe Marco Sturm will make important plays and produce solid numbers.
Scottie Upshall: C+
Upshall is a fiesty competitor who shows courage and spirit on the ice. He has an impressive skating ability and can be a bit of an agitator. On the other hand, he is having a difficult time showing his usual scoring touch that the team hoped to get from him when he was picked up in the off-season. Once he finds his place with the Panthers, hopefully he’ll get his fiery touch back.
Kris Versteeg: A-
After being bounced around from team to team over the last few seasons, it seems as if Kris Versteeg has finally found a home. With being a part of the dynamic top-line, Versteeg has shown a great amount of creativity and remarkable puck possession in the offensive zone which shows with his team leading 12 points in 12 games. However, he can get caught up in turnovers due to one too many arrant passes.
With a new and improved supporting cast, Weiss is off to an impressive start, centering the first line and recording 11 points in 12 games. Weiss exudes a brighter confidence in himself in which he lacked the past 9 seasons and has shown a greater consistency in his play on the ice.
Brian Campbell: A-
Campbell has very impressive offensive skills. He is an intelligent defensman who makes remarkable and smart plays at the right times. He posses patience and is extremely calm and collected with the puck. He is vicious along the boards and wins almost every battle. However, he has caused a few turnovers and is an inconsistant hitter.
Keaton Ellerby: C+
It’s tough to make a judgement with Keaton only making an appearance in three games this year, but he seems to have lost a step in his speed from last season. He has looked to be uncertain of himself with the puck at times, but this could be a harsh judgement because he hasn’t seen enough playing time yet. Once Keaton gets back out there, hopefully given the chance, we’ll see the solid defensive defenseman the way the Panthers expected him to be.
Jason Garrison: A-
Garrison brings a combination of confidence and skill to the defensive zone. He has shown an ample amount of certainty with the puck by moving it out of the dangerous areas, which is a step up from last season. He has become a huge asset on the power play with his wicked shot and has proven to be a top four D man in the league. Unfortunately, Jason still has not used his size and strength to his advantage.
Young Erik Gudbranson has proven himself amongst his NHL peers to be a capable defenseman. With his large size and physicality, he fits the profile of what Dale Tallon is trying to build for the future. He’s made mistakes, but those kind of things are going to be expected for a rookie who is just breaking into the league. In 11 games, Erik looks like he has the tools, the talent, and the leadership to grow into a notable NHL defensemen.
Ed Jovonavski: B+
He was a nice surprise this season as he has showed everyone that he still has the qualities he shared on the ice years ago. He is a well-rounded defenseman who does a little bit of everything. He has an offensive touch, a solid shot, and gets physical when needed. He may not have the speed he used to during his younger days, but he is still the same leader he has always been.
Dmitry Kulikov: C-
He posses good offensive skill and is an all-around impressive skater. He has an incredible shot, but rarely uses it to his advantage. He has a tough time finding openings on the power play and is very impatient with the puck. Kulikov needs a shoot-first, pass-later mentality, and because he lacks this quality, he hesitates with the puck which has caused several turnovers. He has the skills, but just needs to learn how to put it all together.
Mike Weaver: B
Weaver can be seen as a calm and steady defensive defensman. He is terrific on the penalty kill and makes his presence known by getting in front of the net and blocking shots. He rarely creates offensive opportunity and doesn’t have much of a shot. But he moves the puck well and plays a physical game for a guy with his size.
He stepped into the league this season as a fill-in goalie for back-up, Scott Clemmensen, and so far proved that he is everything but a fill-in. He has shown to the hockey world that he is a mega-talented goalie who has lived up to the nickname “Goalie of the future.” He has incredible quickness and is a big presence in front of the net. He uses his size to his advantage and keeps his composure at all times. Jacob has certainly created buzz and a bit of a goalie controversy for the Florida Panthers.
Theodore has been a really nice surprise for the Panthers having been a back-up goalie for the past few seasons. He is very vivacious and a well-moving lateral goalie. He has great positional skills and usually plays the puck well around the net. However, Jose is known to be quite streaky. When his game is on, he is pure excellence. Yet when his game is off, he becomes very vulnerable in front of the net.
Scott Clemmensen: Incomplete
Mikael Sammuelson: Incomplete
I’d love to hear feedback on who you think have been the top Panther performers so far! Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.
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