Some raised an eyebrow when the Florida Panthers didn’t opt for one of the ‘big three’ in the 2013 NHL Draft, instead drafting Finnish center Aleksander Barkov.
Throughout the entire draft process, scouts and analysts focused their attention to the top three draft eligible players in North America, and for a good reason. Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, and Jonathan Drouin were all believed to be franchise changing players and after one season they have done nothing to discredit that.
MacKinnon is the front runner for the Calder Trophy and has been the star of the first round of the playoffs. Jones had stretches where he struggled, finishing at the bottom of the plus/minus category around the league – his struggles not uncommon for an 18-year old defender playing in the best league in the world.
Drouin didn’t get a chance to showcase his skills at the NHL level, as the Tampa Bay Lightning opted to let him develop another year at the junior level, learning a new position in the process. Since he and MacKinnon were teammates with the Halifax Mooseheads, Drouin played on the wing his draft year.
This year he has shifted to center, expanding his game and his value – being named the top prospect in the game according to The Hockey News. Topping last year’s season points totals in three less games, Drouin is still on a tear in the QMJHL playoffs, currently at 37 in 14-playoff games.
Coming over from Finland, Barkov had a leg up on all of these players – he had an opportunity to play against grown men in the Finnish Elite League. Not only did he play, he dominated becoming one of the better players in the league as a 17-year old.
Already with the body to play against the big boys, Barkov used his to score 48-points (21 G, 27 A) in 53-games for the Tappara Tampere. If there was any player in the draft who was ready to play 82-games at the NHL level, it would have been him.
Unfortunately his season was cut short due to an injury suffered in the Olympics, an Olympics where he was quickly getting noticed for his play after being shoved into a starring role with multiple Finnish centers were out with injuries.
Despite not getting an opportunity to play a full season, the advanced numbers show how closely Barkov compared with his fellow rookies. Since Jones plays defense, I took him out of this comparison, and added two fellow rookie forwards out of the 2013 draft, Sean Monahan, Valeri Nichuskin, and Elias Lindholm.
|Player||GF/60||GA/20||PDO||On-Ice Corsi||Qual of Comp|
Barkov was heralded for his hockey instincts, believing he could become one of the better two-way centers in the league. His size alone makes him a tough matchup in both ends, and his Quality of Competition number shows that the Panthers weren’t afraid to put him out there against the other team’s top lines, finishing with the highest mark of the rookies listed.
While his offensive output wasn’t great, every other advanced statistic shows that Barkov was still played at the same level as the other rookies. When you factor in that he had by far the highest Corsi rating playing against the toughest competition shows just how special he can be.
We have seen the impact Nichuskin (recently eliminated) and MacKinnon have had on their teams these playoffs, as long as Dale Tallon puts the right pieces around him – it won’t be long until he has the opportunity to make an impact in the postseason.
Barkov may have may not been one of the focuses during the draft process, but he easily could be one of the defining players in one of the deepest drafts in recent history.
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