Yesterday marked the first day of the Florida Panthers prospect camp. Amidst Wednesday’s off-ice action came the news that Aleksander Barkov, perhaps the teams most highly anticipated prospect, will be held out of the round-robin tournament that will take place this weekend.
Barkov, who turned 18 on Monday, underwent off-season shoulder surgery in April and while he has been cleared to play, the team has decided it is not worth the risk to have him participate this weekend. “Yes he’s ready to go, but we’re just making a decision now,” said General Manager Dale Tallon on Wednesday, “Why jeopardize anything with three games in three days? He’ll be more ready to compete with the big guys 10 days from now.”
The tournament in question begins Friday and it pits a Panther roster made up mostly of non-college prospects, against similar rosters from the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators‘ systems. The news of Barkov’s inaction comes as a disappointment to those who were chomping at the bit to see him matchup against fellow top draft picks Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin of the Predators and Lightning respectively. Barkov himself expressed his disappointment about losing the opportunity to justify his being taken with the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.
“Of course I would like to play against them, but I had this shoulder surgery in April and we have to go slow,” Barkov said. “If I had an injury in the rookie tournament, it wouldn’t be a good thing. I want to do everything [I can so] that they know it was the right decision between me, Jones and Drouin.”
The rest of the Panthers roster, which can be viewed in full here, will take the ice for a practice at the Saveology.com Iceplex this morning at 9:00 a.m. The Panthers kick off the round robin tournament tomorrow, Friday Sept. with a 6 p.m. game against the Nashville Predators. The tournament will continue through Sunday with each team playing one game per day.
Although Barkov may not be taking the ice this weekend, there will be a number of Panthers hopefuls looking to make an impression this weekend. Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden and Vince Trocheck are three forwards that have a chance to make the roster out of training camp and they will use the games this weekend as a first chance to advertise their worth. On the defensive side of the puck, Alexander Petrovic has a strong shot to make the opening day roster while Jonathan Racine will probably be in camp but will be a definite long shot.
The news about Alexander Barkov comes as no surprise and it is completely understandable that the Panthers do not want to risk an injury to their 6’3″ 209 pound center. He is a relatively safe bet to make the Panthers and he will be given the opportunity to prove his mettle when training camp gets under way. Losing the chance to witness a Drouin/Barkov/Jones battle is a bummer but they have their entire careers to play out the debate over who deserved to be picked where. For now we can just be happy that we have some hockey back, so strap yourselves in, it should be a fun ride.