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From The Press Box


From The Press Box is a weekly column written by FloridaPanthers.com and NHL.com writer Alain Poupart. Poupart has been covering the Panthers and the NHL for 20 years.

Have a question for Alain? Be sure to ask him through twitter @apoupartFins.


Barkov Making Big Impression

Rookie center showing why the Panthers made him the second overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft.

Wednesday, 10.16.2013 / 10:30 AM / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Barkov Making Big Impression
Rookie center showing why the Panthers made him the second overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
Forward Aleksander Barkov celebrates his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Dallas on Oct. 3 (Getty Images)

When the Panthers faced the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, the biggest storyline clearly was the first NHL confrontation between prized rookies Aleksander Barkov and Seth Jones.

Jones came out on top on the scoreboard thanks to Nashville’s 4-3 victory, but in the big picture the game showed that both the Panthers and Predators came out winners with their first-round selections in the 2013 NHL draft.

Jones really looks good for Nashville. Barkov really looks good for the Panthers. It’s that simple.

Call it a win-win situation all the way around.

Nashville unquestionably got itself a gem with Jones, a smooth-skating and skilled defenseman with a big shot and good passing skills. He no doubt would have looked good in a Panthers uniform.

The expectation on draft day was that the Panthers would take Jones with the second overall pick if the Colorado Avalanche took, as was expected, Nathan MacKinnon at No. 1.

But the choice was Barkov because the Panthers had a bigger need organizationally at center than on defense, especially one year after using their first-round pick on smooth-skating defenseman Michael Matheson.

The 2013 draft seemingly was all about MacKinnon, Jones and Jonathan Drouin, and they were expected to go 1-2-3 — Drouin did go third to Tampa Bay. The only reason Barkov wasn’t in that group was because he played in Finland.

But Barkov doesn’t take a back seat to any prospect.

Barkov already has five points in the first seven games of his rookie season and was a big cause in Florida’s third goal Tuesday night despite not registering a point on the play and he’s already demonstrated some pretty slick passing skills, but there are two significant areas where he really has been impressive.

Those areas don’t show up on the stat sheet and they’re not going to be picked up by the casual observer, but they’re important nonetheless.

First, his work in the defensive zone. Watch a Panthers game and check out how often you see Barkov down low helping out the defensemen. It’s quite remarkable, especially for a rookie.

Second, watch Barkov battle along the boards or absorb a hit. The kid is a rock on skates. He just does not get outmuscled or knocked off his skates. He wins physical battles on a consistent basis.

Oh, and did we mention Barkov just turned 18. He’s actually the youngest player in the NHL, by one day over MacKinnon.

That might be the most impressive fact of all. Barkov is a teenager. But he sure plays a grown-up game.

That’s what the Panthers saw in him after his two years playing in the Finnish Elite League against men twice his age. That’s why they drafted him second overall instead of Jones.

Nashville thinks it has a star in the making with Jones. The Panthers have every reason to feel the same way about Barkov.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 63 22 16 -8 38
J. Huberdeau 60 9 27 4 36
J. Jokinen 62 6 28 0 34
A. Ekblad 63 10 23 8 33
B. Boyes 61 11 21 9 32
J. Jagr 59 12 19 -9 31
J. Hayes 54 17 10 -5 27
B. Campbell 63 3 20 3 23
A. Barkov 52 10 12 -4 22
T. Fleischmann 52 7 14 12 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 16 11 .920 2.40
A. Montoya 5 6 2 .891 2.98
 
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