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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

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 44 15 12 1 27
J. Huberdeau 41 8 17 1 25
A. Ekblad 44 6 19 7 25
J. Jokinen 43 4 20 0 24
J. Hayes 36 13 7 1 20
B. Boyes 42 9 11 1 20
S. Bergenheim 33 7 9 4 16
T. Fleischmann 38 5 8 9 13
V. Trocheck 28 4 9 6 13
D. Kulikov 39 1 12 -2 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 17 10 8 .923 2.32
A. Montoya 3 4 2 .887 3.09
 
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