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Barkov Waits To Heal To Show Panthers His Game

Monday, 07.15.2013 / 3:00 PM / Features
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Barkov Waits To Heal To Show Panthers His Game
Top prospect Aleksander Barkov waits for shoulder to heal to show Florida Panthers his game.
Aleksander Barkov (Getty Images)

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- While the large pool of blue-chip prospects for the Florida Panthers was on display this past week during the team's annual development camp, the latest addition was relegated to the role of spectator.

While Aleksander Barkov did get on the ice for some individual skating on the final three days of the week-long camp, he couldn't take part in any of the practices or the intra-squad scrimmage on the final day because of his continuing rehabilitation from shoulder surgery in March.

Nonetheless, Barkov said he enjoyed the week because it gave him a taste of South Florida and only reinforced the notion that this is where he wants to be this fall. To further cement this point, he signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the team Monday.

"It's great," Barkov said of his first trip to Florida. "It's the first time I'm here and I don't want to leave anymore. It's a nice place and better weather than in Finland. I like it very much."

The Panthers surprised many analysts when they selected Barkov with the No. 2 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. One of the reasons behind their choice was the belief that Barkov is NHL-ready after playing the past two seasons in SM-liiga, Finland's top professional league.

More importantly, the Panthers loved the fact that the teenager was so eager to come to North America immediately.

"I like his desire to be here," general manager Dale Tallon said during development camp. "He really wants to be a star. He wants to be here and he wants to play right away. It's a little frustrating for him right now that he can't compete with his future teammates, but he's in the gym working really hard and our trainers have worked extremely hard with him. He's excited to be here. He loves it here and wants to stay here. That's a real positive."

Barkov, who had surgery after injuring his shoulder during a playoff game in Finland, said at the draft he was confident he would be ready for the start of training camp in September, and later indicated he would go back to Finland to continue his rehab.

The other blue-chip prospects at the Panthers development camp didn't get a chance to see Barkov in action. First-round picks Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and Michael Matheson took part in the action, while Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau attended but couldn't skate after undergoing hip surgery after the season.

Instead, the Panthers prospects had to settle for getting a glimpse at Barkov's impressive size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) and a disposition that belies the fact he won't turn 18 until September.

"He seems like a real good guy," Howden, the third of three first-round picks the Panthers used in the 2010 NHL Draft, said. "Obviously he's going to be a real good advantage to our team. … You can see that he's still got a bit to grow and he's going to be even bigger. That's only a positive."

Before being sidelined last season, Barkov had 21 goals and 27 assists in 53 games for Tappara, and his 48 points were ninth in the league scoring race.

"He didn't take a step back," Tallon said. "He was the second-best player in the Finnish elite league as a 17-year-old, 16 turning 17. He's played two years in that league and he's yet to see his 18th birthday. He feels he's ready. He's very confident -- quiet confidence. He's got size and skill and he makes other players around him better."

"Barkov has never played with his own age group," Scott Luce, the Panthers' director of scouting, said. "He's always played up a year or two. Now he's played two years with men. He's a hockey player. He's a big center. He's got great size, great strength, great hockey IQ."

Barkov said he never was intimidated about playing against men, except maybe "a little bit" the day before his first game.

After finishing with the fewest points in the NHL last season and losing longtime center Stephen Weiss in the offseason, the Panthers clearly could use Barkov's help as quickly as possible.

At the conclusion of the development camp, the other centers on the roster included Shawn Matthias, who was re-signed on the same day that Weiss left; veteran Marcel Goc; and two of the participants in the July practices, Bjugstad and Drew Shore.

How quickly Barkov can get up to full speed could play a large role in whether he'll be in the Florida lineup for the season opener.

"That's always been my dream, to play [in the NHL], and now it's a main goal of my life to play for the Florida Panthers next year," Barkov said. "I'm so excited to get a chance to play. I want to play very much."

That excitement is shared by Panthers officials, who for now just want to see Barkov on the ice ready to compete.

"When you look at his composure and his size, he's way beyond his age as far as maturity," Tallon said. "I'm anxious to get him playing and watch him develop."

Author: Alain Poupart | NHL.com Correspondent

UPCOMING EVENTS

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 76 16 22 -14 38
S. Upshall 76 15 22 1 37
B. Campbell 82 7 30 -6 37
B. Boyes 78 21 15 -6 36
S. Bergenheim 62 16 13 -16 29
J. Huberdeau 69 9 19 -5 28
T. Fleischmann 80 8 20 -18 28
T. Gilbert 73 3 25 -5 28
B. Pirri 49 13 12 6 25
A. Barkov 54 8 16 -3 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 25 23 7 .919 2.40
S. Clemmensen 6 7 1 .896 3.09
 
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