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.

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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.

Wednesday, 10.16.2013 / 10:30 AM ET / From The Press Box
By Alain Poupart  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Barkov Making Big Impression
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 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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