This season, Aleksander Barkov again showed why he’s one of the best two-way forwards in today’s NHL. The Florida Panthers’ captain electrified audiences with his elite playmaking and goal-scoring ability, so much so that it won him the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in 2020-21.
What Barkov Brought to the Table
Barkov’s leadership and skill helped rally the team to push for a playoff spot, which included beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars in their regular-season series. Despite not appearing in six games due to injury, Barkov had a phenomenal statistical season with 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists) in 50 games to lead the team in goals and rank second in assists and points. Furthermore, he was second on the team in power-play points with 19, second in game-winning goals with six, and second in power-play goals with seven, and he was one of four Panthers to score a shorthanded goal. In addition, he was a demon at the dot with a faceoff win percentage of 54.9 percent through all 50 games he played.
However, even-strength hockey is where he performed at such a level that opponents didn’t want to see on the other end of the ice. He led the team in Corsi for percentage (CF%) with a total of 58.6 percent of all shot attempts at 5-on-5 this season.
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He was 10th in the league in goals per game with 1.16, ninth in goals per game with 0.52, eighth in goals created per game with 0.46, seventh in offensive point shares with 5.9, and eighth in expected rating with a plus-16.3.
His elite play helped boost linemates Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair, and their line combined for 126 points (54 goals, 72 assists) through the regular season.
What to Look for Next Season
Fresh off of a playoff berth and a Selke Trophy, Barkov should soar to new heights in a full season. He’s also entering the final season of his six-year, $35.4 million deal, and he might play with a chip on his shoulder to prove he deserves a hefty payday. He may still have a sour taste in his mouth from the team’s playoff exit, especially since he played well with seven points (one goal, six assists) through six games in the Panthers’ first-round series against the Lightning.
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Barkov knows how to lead a locker room with his skill and talent, and he’s worthy of having the “C” on his jersey. His teammates agree and use his talent to fuel their game.
“He’s always impressed me, but this year he’s just stepped it up and is on another level right now,” said Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, Barkov’s teammate for the last eight seasons. “One-on-one, he wins his battle every time. I wouldn’t want to play against him.”Jonathan Huberdeau, on Barkov.
Expect the Panthers to rally around Barkov next season and use the example he sets to fuel their drive for the playoffs. Head coach Joel Quenneville will lean on him to push the team even harder, as is his style.
Regular Season: 26 goals and 32 assists through 50 games played
Playoffs: One goal and six assists through six playoff games
Fun Fact: Barkov’s Selke Trophy is the first of his career. He beat out former winners Patrice Bergeron and Mark Stone with 62 first-place votes (Bergeron had 15 and Stone had 11).
Final Grade: A+
Barkov’s A+ grade should come as no surprise. His excellent 5-on-5 work is Hall of Fame-caliber and it ultimately won him the Selke Trophy. He took his talents to new heights in 2020-21 and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’ll go even further next season.