Shooting for Olympic gold.
For Panthers forwards Aleksander Barkov (Finland) and Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia) that’s exactly what they’ll be doing come February as they were selected on Tuesday to represent their country at the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
For the Flying Finn, it will be a big honor, as the Panthers young gun will join Finnish great Teemu Selanne, who is suiting up in his sixth Olympics, among others.
At just 18-years old, it is believed that Barkov will be the youngest Finnish hockey player to play in an Olympics since 1952 when Erkki Hytonen played as an 18-year old. Hytonen turned 19 in May following the games in Oslo, Norway.
Barkov has led the way for Florida in his rookie season after being selected second overall in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, posting a team-high 22 points (7-15-22). The Finn has posted 12 points in his last 12 games and his current six-game point streak (1-6-7) is tied with Jesse Belanger and Kristian Huselius for the longest in franchise history by a Panthers rookie. The center has competed for Finland at two World Junior Championships in 2012 and 2013.
It will be Kopecky’s second Olympics. He helped lead Slovakia to the bronze medal game in Vancouver in 2010 but the Slovaks fell short in a 5-3 game to Finland.
“Just to see all the athletes, not just the hockey players but any other athletes, figure skaters, all the guys competing for the medal, it's just a great experience,” said Kopecky on Monday morning before finding out he was going.
In his third season with the Panthers since being acquired in a trade from Chicago, Kopecky has recorded 68 points (29-39-68) in 165 games.
Kopecky has competed for Slovakia at two World Championships besides the Olympics in Vancouver, suiting up for the Slovaks in 2010 and 2013.