Months before the draft took place, it was widely expected that Seth Jones would go no. 1 overall, while the Florida Panthers would have the opportunity to select a center with huge upside in Nathan MacKinnon. It would have been a nice consolation prize, even if they didn’t get the defenseman with superstar potential.
When the draft actually rolled around a couple of weeks ago, it was MacKinnon that went in the top spot, while Jones remained for the Panthers to snatch right up and immediately put on their blue line. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Panthers selected Finnish forward Aleksander Barkov.
It wasn’t the move anyone expected, and while it’s probably not the move they should have made with Jones still on the board, Barkov is the type of player who could fit into the mix right away. He doesn’t have the superstar offensive upside that the likes of MacKinnon does, but is the type of two-way player Dale Tallon apparently coveted.
Barkov is a big kid. Despite only being 18, he’s already 6’2″ and over 200 pounds. He has the body type that could play in the NHL tomorrow and be able to hang, in terms of the physicality. He’s been playing in the Finnish Elite League, so one wouldn’t think a jump over here is too far away, depending on how he fares in camp.
As far as his skill set, Barkov is known for his two-way play. He’s an excellent playmaker in the offensive end, while providing top notch defense from the forward position in the defensive zone. He knows how to put the puck in the net as well, finishing second in scoring on his Finnish club last season.
When you consider how NHL ready Barkov is, it’s hard to criticize the Panthers too much for passing on the likes of Jones. His physical maturity and his experience make him a favorite to start with the Panthers next year, right off the bat. While it wasn’t the expected pick, it’s one that has the potential to pay off immediately for the Panthers.