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Panthers' Barkov healthy, eager for second season

Thursday, 07.17.2014 / 11:01 AM ET / News
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers\' Barkov healthy, eager for second season

Aleksander Barkov made a brief appearance during the Florida Panthers development camp last week, skating the first two days and then sitting out the last two. He still managed to provide one of the highlights of the week with a shootout move that quickly found its way to the Internet, a one-handed backhand flip into the middle of the net.

Barkov didn't really need to show the Panthers anything last week. The main reason they brought him to development camp was to evaluate his rehabilitation from the knee injury that cut short what had been a tremendous rookie season for the second pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We just want to make sure that when training camp comes that he's raring to go," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "He has nothing to prove to me. We just brought him in here to evaluate him and look at him and everything's good."

The Panthers have high hopes for Barkov, who will turn 19 a couple of weeks before the start of training camp.

As an 18-year-old rookie Barkov spent a good part of the 54 games he played centering the first line. He displayed an all-around game that belied his youth.

The Panthers are confident that was only the beginning.

"This guy is going to be a superstar in this League," said Brian Skrudland, who served as an assistant coach for the Panthers for most of last season before returning to his post as director of player development. "I can't wait to watch him. I had the opportunity of spending every day with him last year and his work ethic, both on and off the field, is unmatched. That is going to allow him to stay in this game a long time."

Barkov's last game came at the 2014 Sochi Olympics when he was playing for his native Finland.

He began practicing with his Panthers teammates toward the latter stages of the regular season, but with Florida out of Stanley Cup Playoff contention, the Panthers saw no reason to take any chances by putting him back into the lineup.

"I got injured in the Olympics and was pretty sad about that," Barkov said. "My season ended pretty early. I want to play right now. I can't wait until the next season."

Barkov was headed back to Finland for about a month after development camp, and was planning on getting back on the ice this week.

His rookie season featured eight goals and 16 assists and certainly was viewed as a success, but he was far from satisfied.

"I was happy because I made the team and I was here all year," Barkov said. "I'm happy with that, but I want to be a much better player and much bigger player for this organization. I want to win something big with this team.

"I want to be faster, stronger and I want to play a bigger role than last year."

At this stage it's fair to expect Barkov to once again center the top line, and there's an expectation he'll be teamed with free agent acquisition and fellow Finn Jussi Jokinen.

Tallon said July 1 that Jokinen had indicated a desire to play with Barkov before signing with the Panthers. The feeling was reciprocal.

"I was thinking about [playing with Jokinen] before they signed him," said Barkov, who played a few shifts alongside Jokinen during the Olympics. "I knew he was going to be a free agent and he probably was going to sign with Florida. Then he did, so I was pretty happy. I'm very excited to be his teammate for the next two years. He's a great player. I would love to play with him."

Jokinen is a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, but the players who will be counted on to lead Florida's offense next season are its young guns, among them Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Barkov.

Barkov showed last season he possessed tremendous ability when it comes to passing the puck, but now the Panthers are hoping he becomes a bit more assertive and shoots more.

"It's just in his makeup," Skrudland said. "That comes with age. You pass these messages along, but eventually they see it as well. He's a real smart hockey guy, [hockey] IQ off the charts. So I'm not too worried about that. When push comes to shove, he's a guy we're going to rely on to be putting some pucks in the net."

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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