The Florida Panthers passed over several outstanding young players when they selected Aleksander Barkov with the second-overall pick at the 2013 draft. He’d been performing incredibly well as a boy among men since he was 16 in the SM-liiga, and so far he’s been solid as a rookie.
While he’s not exactly blowing the competition away in the NHL, Barkov has still shown that he’s a hard-working net front player and a guy that’s willing to pay the price to dig the puck out of the corners. That doesn’t sound like your prototypical Finnish-trained player, so while Barkov’s numbers might not get him into the Olympics, his style of play could.
He spoke to Harvey Fialkov of The Florida Sun Sentinel about his desire to be an Olympian:
It’s always great to play for Finland to try to win something, but I’m very happy to be here. That will come later. I have to be here much better.
Those comments came after the Panthers made it clear that they had no intention of loaning Barkov to Finland for the World Junior Championships in Sweden. The youngster is playing top-six minutes in Florida, so that isn’t particularly surprising. Taking part in the WJC would have forced Barkov to miss upwards of nine contests, and the Panthers would prefer to have him under their coaching staff for that duration.