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Florida Panthers Top 25 Under 25: #3 Aleksander Barkov

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The 2nd overall selection at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft comes in at #3 on our countdown, as his incredible defensive skills and strong offensive talents will have him dominating the NHL very, very soon.

The 20-year-old Finn comes in at #3 on our countdown.
The 20-year-old Finn comes in at #3 on our countdown.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Aleksander Barkov

Position: Center

Birthdate: 09/02/95 (20)

Acquired: Drafted 1st round (#2 Overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft

2014-15 Team/League: Florida Panthers (NHL)

Stats:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
71 16 20 36 16 -4

Nationality: Finnish

Size: 6'3", 213 pounds

Contract Status: Signed for one more season with AAV of $925,000 (RFA at the end of the year)

Back on draft day in 2013, the Colorado Avalanche shocked the hockey world by skipping over defenseman Seth Jones, and electing to take forward Nathan MacKinnon instead. Colorado's blue line was lacking depth (it still is), and Jones learned to play hockey in Denver; the choice seemed like a no-brainer.

When Dale Tallon came to the podium, he had a chance to draft Jones, but instead elected to draft Aleksander Barkov. Barkov was coming off of a point-per-game season in Finland's top men's league, and had already proven he could succeed playing against professionals. His resume (as brought to our attention by SashaSaves16 in the comments section of an early post) was pretty incredible. The following is from Barkov's website:

  • Youngest player ever in SM Liga to score a goal and assist (2011)
  • Youngest player to ever play for U20 Finnish National Team (2011)
  • Second youngest player to score a goal at the World Junior Championships (2011)
  • Most points scored by player under 18 Y/O in Finnish SM Liga (2012)
  • Youngest player to score 40 points in SM Liga (2012)

Barkov may have seemed like a bit of a stretch on draft day, but it's clear that there should have been no reservations about taking the talented Finn second overall.

He made an instant splash with the team, and became the youngest goal scorer in NHL history. He made the Finnish Olympic team in 2014, and though his season was cut short by a knee injury, Barkov still showed great potential.

In 2014-15, he had a successful campaign, averaging half-a-point per game and dominating possession metrics. He comes into the 2015-16 season with a full summer of work outs as well; the past two offseasons he's had to deal with shoulder and knee injuries, meaning he was mostly working on rehab, and not on developing more muscle.

This offseason, however, he was free to do whatever he wanted, and it looks like it's going to pay off.

Here are some notes on Barkov from our Season in Review article.

Barkov plays a very structured, positionally sound style of hockey that is simple and effective. His positioning and stick skills result in him creating a lot of turnovers, both in the neutral zone and in the defensive end. When he isn't the one creating the turnover, he's in position to support his defensemen, helping the team break the puck out of the zone quickly.

Barkov doesn't have breakaway speed, and passing the puck up the ice is his preferred way to move it through the neutral zone, but he does have the ability to skate the puck out and maintain control of it, while drawing defensemen to him and opening up space for his linemates. His vision and awareness allow him to pass the puck up the ice quickly, and ensure that he gets his teammates involved in the play.

In the offensive zone, Barkov is creative with the puck, and has quick feet and hands that allow him to separate from defenders and make passes to teammates who are in scoring areas. He can also use those hands to create goals for himself.

In the beginning of the year he was reluctant to put the puck on net, and would often make unnecessary passes when he didn't trust himself to make the proper offensive play. This would hurt the team because Barkov has a strong shot, and when he's in these scoring areas, he needs to unleash it.

Barkov is a puck possession stud, and it's hard to find a metric by which he looks bad. He controls shot attempts well, creates more scoring chances for his team than his opponents, and out-performs his usage by a good margin.  At this point, its clear that the young Finnish forward is one of the best puck possession forwards on the team. Factor in the fact that he's only 19-years-old, and the future looks bright for the team's number one center.

The bottom line is that everyone should be excited about Barkov headed into next season. He's going to have another year of development under him and he's primed to unleash his offensive abilities upon the league. We already know that defensively, he's one of the best players on the Panthers. This year, hopefully we'll get to see some of his talent offensively, and it will push the team's first line from good to great.

Overall, Barkov has to potential to have the type of impact that Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, and other dominant two-way centers have on the game. His defensive skill is incredible, and with Jaromir Jagr to help him fully develop his offensive talents, the sky really is the limit for the Finnish forward.

Where We Voted for Barkov:

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
1 4 2 5 3

Who We Voted 3rd

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Jonathan Huberdeau Nick Bjugstad

Nick Bjugstad

Jonathan Huberdeau Aleksander Barkov