This past Saturday, April 2nd, the Florida Panthers mounted a historic victory over the Montreal Canadians. After letting in the first three, the Panthers were able to storm back and score four unanswered goals to give them the win and two vital points in the race for the Atlantic Division title. Most notably, the team’s first line center, Aleksander Barkov, scored the final goal with 28 seconds left in regulation (his second of the night and 26th of the season). Such a comeback hadn’t happened for the team since November 2011.
The win effectively kicked off Panthers playoff fever in South Florida. After the game, radio color commentator, NHL Network analyst, and former Panther Bill Lindsay posed the idea of Barkov being nominated for the Selke Trophy (he finished 38th in voting for the award last season).
Wow what a great win. Holy cow is Barkov playing some incredible hockey. Deserves a Selke nomination. That top line is dominating.#woofwoof
— bill lindsay (@LindsayBHockey) April 3, 2016
With the team’s first line producing consistently throughout the season, how comparable is the young centerman to Selke winners of years past, and how soon would it be before he is truly competing for the award?
NHL.com describes the Frank J. Selke Trophy as being “given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” Typically, the award is given to the player recognized as being the best two-way or all-around forward for that season.
To get a better feel for Barkov’s standing as an elite two-way forward, below is a compilation of pertinent statistics (hockey-reference.com) in relation to the winners of the Selke Trophy over the past five seasons as well as their averages. It is important to note that at this time, the Panthers have two games remaining in the regular season.
Selke Trophy Winners Season Player Age Tm Pos GP G A PTS +/- TOI/G CF% CF%Rel S% FO% TA/GA oZS% dZS% GPG PPG GCG 2014-15 Patrice Bergeron 29 BOS C 81 23 32 55 2 18.14 58.9 9.6 9.8 60.6 1.66 43.8 56.2 0.28 0.68 0.26 2013-14 Patrice Bergeron 28 BOS C 80 30 32 62 38 17.99 60.8 8.2 12.3 58.6 1.75 45.3 54.7 0.38 0.78 0.31 2012-13 Jonathan Toews 24 CHI C 47 23 25 48 28 20.46 57.4 2.8 16.1 59.9 3.50 55.2 44.8 0.49 1.02 0.41 2011-12 Patrice Bergeron 26 BOS C 81 22 42 64 36 18.58 59.5 6.2 11.5 59.3 2.20 48.1 51.9 0.27 0.79 0.29 2010-11 Ryan Kesler 26 VAN C 82 41 32 73 24 20.50 57.5 5.7 15.8 57.4 3.10 49.6 50.4 0.50 0.89 0.37 AVERAGE 26.60 81 28 33 60 26 19.13 58.8 6.5 13.1 59.2 2.44 48.4 51.6 0.38 0.83 0.33 2015-2016 Aleksander Barkov 20.22 FLA C 64 28 29 57 16 19.45 48.3 -1.5 16.8 49.9 1.62 45.8 54.2 0.44 0.89 0.37
Based on his current statistics, it seems like the young Finn is close to contending for the trophy. Although his offensive statistics are impressive given the number of games played, Barkov’s defensive numbers need to improve to qualify him as a two-way rather than a pure scorer; though, his growth in just three seasons provides strong evidence for continued improvement and eventual contention for the Selke in the near future. Here’s a look into Barkov’s rise to elite status.
Barkov’s Offensive Explosion
Season Age Tm GP G A PTS +/- 2013-14 18 FLA 54 8 16 24 -3 2014-15 19 FLA 71 16 20 36 -4 2015-16 20 FLA 64 28 29 57 16
What is immediately apparent is that in the main scoring categories, Barkov has performed remarkably well this season. In comparison to his previous two years, it is clear that placing him alongside future Hall of Famer, Jaromir Jagr, has led to a dramatic improvement. With just two games remaining this regular season, it is possible for him to eclipse the Selke winner averages for goals and assists. Not only that, but Barkov has arrived at these numbers by playing in only 62 games.
This 20-year-old has put up some other staggering numbers. Besides the 28 goals and 29 assists for himself, he has helped his line mates achieve greatness—Jagr has over 60 points and Johnathan Huberdeau is having the best year of his young career. Barkov also ranks in the league’s top 20 for Goals Per Game, Points Per Game, and Goals Created per Game. Additionally, he is arguably the best shootout performer in the league, scoring 83.3% of the time (5/6) which is the highest percentage for shooters with four or more attempts.
Offensively, Barkov is on a meteoric rise. It is clear that his freshman and sophomore seasons were needed to get accustomed—understandably so given that he was playing in the NHL at 18 years old. Don’t be surprised to see him easily pass the 30 goal mark next season.
Season TOI CF% CF% rel S% oZS% dZS% FO% TA/GV 2013-14 756.7 51.8 1.7 9.2 52.3 47.7 48.8 1.76 2014-15 1033.3 52.9 2.7 13.0 49.0 51.0 46.1 1.55 2015-16 916.5 48.3 -1.5 16.8 45.8 54.2 49.9 1.62
As exceptional as his offensive numbers already are, Barkov’s defensive and possession statistics have been steadily improving. If you were to compare his Corsi numbers it would seem as though he isn’t advancing. On the contrary, since Barkov is now the Panthers’ first line center, his line is relied upon heavily on both ends of the ice. Given the increasing ice team and number of defensive zone starts (dZS%) he is able to create a fairly even number of scoring chances while also having an incredibly high shooting percentage (16.8%). In other words, despite beginning a majority of his shifts in his own zone, Barkov helps to generate more goals on less shots. Similarly, Barkov has shown steady improvement with his faceoff percentage (FO%). Ultimately, while his metrics from this season are not in line with top two-way forwards, Barkov’s trajectory (as well as that of the Florida Panthers) will soon take him into Selke territory.
Hoisting the Trophy?
Aleksander Barkov has performed at an elite level this season. At the age of 20 and in only his third year, he has led the Panthers to their fifth postseason birth—along the way, learning invaluable skills from veterans such as Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen, and Willie Mitchell. Even though he experienced a lengthy injury spell, he has pulled of his most productive season to date, giving fans a glimpse into his full potential. With time and further development, Barkov will undoubtedly be in the running for the Selke Trophy in the near future, contending with the likes of Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews, for years to come.
Florida Panthers contributor. You can find me at the Cats’ game or playing NHL ’16.