While some have criticized the Florida Panthers selecting Aleksander Barkov over Seth Jones with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, management absolutely made the right decision.
Forget the fact that the Panthers have a plethora of defensemen ready to guard the blue line and blast laser beams from the point. Barkov can flat out play. Factor in his 6’2″ 205-pound frame and you have a talented two-way center that fills a void that’s needed to be fixed for the past several years in Florida.
In his most recent season with Tappara, Barkov tallied 48 points (21G, 27A) in 53 games and was a top-ten scorer in a men’s league as a 17-year old. While he is only 17 right now, his size makes him NHL ready and nearly impossible to bounce off the puck. He possesses an accurate shot which he can drive to the net with superb velocity.
Barkov combines playmaking and solid defense to go along with an assortment of skills that could one day make him the first line center for the Panthers. You can think of Barkov to be like a Joe Thornton; a playmaking center who loves to use his size to his advantage.
He does have another year on his commitment with Tappara, but either way, his future as an NHL star is extremely bright. He headlines a list of young centers in Florida including Nick Bjugstad that are ready to make a splash in the NHL.
Put him on line with Jonathan Huberdeau and you automatically have one of the best lines in the NHL in a couple of years.
While Seth Jones was a defensive prospect who was tough to pass up on, the Panthers were smart in taking Barkov.
It’s no lie that the 2012-13 campaign for the Panthers was a disappointment, but if anyone wants to look at the glass being half-full, the result of the season was acquiring this potential star-studded center. Blame it on the lockout shortened year or shortened training camp with no preseason, but things turned out well for this young team in Florida that is only going to get better in the years to come.
Matt Schreiber is the Florida Panthers Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. He grew up just outside of Washington, DC before moving to Boca Raton, FL, where he currently resides. He also covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.