After winning the 2021 Frank J. Selke Trophy and leading the Florida Panthers to a second-straight postseason appearance for the first time since 1996-97, Aleksander Barkov has cemented himself as a team legend. As captain since 2018-19, Barkov has shown both on and off the ice that he is worthy of being named the greatest player in franchise history.
Since he was drafted second overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers knew they had someone special. The Tampere, Finland native suited up in 54 games in his rookie season, netting eight goals and 24 points. The following season, he doubled his goal total to 16, adding 20 assists in 71 games in 2014-15.
Barkov broke out in the 2015-16 season, scoring 28 goals and 59 points in 66 games while leading the Panthers to their first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season. He also began his streak of six straight seasons of at least 20 goals, which remains active today.
He entered the conversation as one of the league’s best players in 2017-18 when he scored 27 goals and 51 assists in 79 games. He finished tied for 23rd in points and fourth in Selke Trophy voting; it was the highest he’d finished in the race to be named the league’s best defensive forward, four seasons into his seven-year streak of receiving votes.
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The following season, Barkov entered the Hart Trophy race for the league’s most valuable player for the first time, finishing 16th. He has since received votes in two of the last three seasons. He also put up 35 goals and 61 assists in 82 games, finishing 10th in the NHL in points. He won the Lady Byng Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player, after he earned just four minor penalties, despite being voted as the fifth-best defensive forward in 2018-19.
Barkov stayed near a point-per-game pace over the next two seasons, both shortened due to COVID-19. In 2019-20, he scored 20 goals and 62 points in 66 games, while in 2020-21, he had 26 goals and 58 points in 50 games. In that span, Barkov ranks 16th in points with 120 and tied for 26th in goals with 46 while remaining one of the league’s best defensive forwards.
Barkov’s Panthers Legacy
The 25-year-old already ranks sixth among Panthers skaters in games played (529), second in goals (188), and second in points (465.) He sits just seven points behind Olli Jokinen for the Panthers’ title of all-time leading goal scorer in 38 fewer games.
In 2021-22, Barkov will become the team’s longest-serving captain as he enters his fifth season with the “C” on his sweater. Scott Mellanby, Jokinen, and Brian Skrudland also captained the team for four seasons.
He is the only player in franchise history to win more than one award as a Panther, winning the Lady Byng Trophy in 2019 and becoming the first Panther to ever win the Selke Trophy last season, and he has plenty of time to add to his resume.
The Panthers have had some of their most successful seasons in franchise history with Barkov in the fold, making the postseason three times and having their best season (in point percentage) last year with a 37-14-5 record. The truth is, Barkov proved he is one of, if not the best, players in Panthers history before his 26th birthday. With many years ahead of him, he has a chance to solidify his position as the greatest Panther of all time.