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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.


 
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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

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
5 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
6 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 55 25 24 6 154 169 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 51 17 21 14 38
J. Jokinen 54 11 27 12 38
J. Huberdeau 54 10 28 12 38
V. Trocheck 54 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 54 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 50 11 13 -4 24
A. Ekblad 50 10 13 20 23
B. Campbell 54 5 17 20 22
N. Bjugstad 39 9 10 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .928 2.17
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

 
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