The Florida Panthers surprised a lot of pundits when they selected Aleksander Barkov with the second-overall selection in the 2013 NHL draft. Seth Jones was still available, and it was widely believed that Jonathan Drouin would be the second forward selected after Nathan MacKinnon was picked.
Since then, the 18-year-old Finnish phenom has been among the best rookies playing in the NHL. He’s dealt with a few dry spells, but that can be attributed to a weaker contingent of forwards in Florida. Finland seems to know where its future lies, and after losing Mikko Koivu to an ankle injury, it appears that the teeanger will be the top center for the team.
Teemu Selanne (42) and Aleksander Barkov (19) are going to play on the same line for FIN. another reason to love the Olympics. #Sochi2014
— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) February 10, 2014
This task might seem daunting for most players in Barkov’s age group, but he’s been playing against grown men since he was 16. He made his debut in the SM-liiga almost two full years before he was eligible to be drafted by an NHL team, so while Barkov is a bit green, no one should expect him to roll over in the face of intense competition either.
Finland will be a chippy and competitive squad, and they’ll look to Barkov to lead the way with that style of play. He should be more than up to the task, given that he’s most effective in front of the opposition’s net or working down low in the corners.
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