The Florida Panthers surprised many around the league when they passed up on defenseman Seth Jones in order to select Aleksander Barkov, the 6’2” 205 lb. center who has spent the last two years playing in the Finnish Elite League.
At 17 years of age, Barkov has impressed scouts with his ability to excel while playing professionally in Finland. Last season while playing for Tappara, Barkov tallied 48 points in 53 games (21 goals, 27 assists). The Panthers made it clear that they wanted a player who could compete in the NHL immediately and they believe that Barkov’s experience in Finland will help him be that kind of impact player.
With Colorado selecting Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick, it appeared that defenseman Seth Jones would be the de facto second pick. Jones has the potential to play immediately and is projected to develop into a top line defenseman. The Panthers however had offense on their mind and apparently felt that Barkov was too tantalizing of a prospect to pass up.
It is worth noting that Florida selected Barkov ahead of Jonathan Drouin. Many scouts had Drouin ranked ahead of Barkov but Florida wanted to add a top center and Barkov was their man. Jones, who just weeks ago was the consensus top pick slid all the way to Nashville at four as the Tampa Bay Lightning scooped up Drouin with the third overall pick.
By selecting Barkov, the Florida Panthers are primed to be rock solid down the middle for years to come. Barkov joins an impressive group of young centers including the likes of Drew Shore and Nick Bjugstad. While some fans may be upset the Florida passed on a talent of Jones’ caliber, the selection of Barkov will inject some excitement into South Florida this season and the thought of a Huberdeau-Barkov line combo already has fans foaming at the mouth.
As the draft continues, The Rat Trick will continue to be your source of Florida Panther news. Feel free to share your thoughts about the pick in the comments section below.