As the Florida Panthers look to head into next season stronger than ever, they must remember that one player holds the key to success.
In case you were wondering who that “player” may be, it’s no one other than Aleksander Barkov. At 21 years of age, Barkov has really grown on me as a player. Since stepping foot into the NHL, I knew since day one that Tallon made the right decision in choosing Barky. Many thought Dale was crazy at the time, as they passed on the likes of Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin.
I think it’s fair to note that Barkov was clearly the best choice at number two. Had their been a re-draft, I truly believe that he would have overtaken MacKinnon for the number one spot. Heading into this season with an entirely different look upfront, players like Aleksander will be called upon to step up and lead the team. I certainly believe that Barkov can lead this group offensively.
To me, the kid has no ceiling. It’s honestly remarkable how Barky comes back stronger, quicker and more skilled after every summer. He simply takes no time off and is seen performing his usual dry land training during the off-season. With all the extensive work he puts in away from the rink, it comes as no surprise as to why he’s the best forward on the team.
With all the upside to his game, unfortunately comes the downside. The only downside to Barkov’s game is the injuries he has faced. Sadly, the most amount of games he has played during the regular season is 71. Last season, he only played in 61 games due to a lower body injury.
For the Panthers sake, they cannot afford to have him miss any extensive time this year. Preferably, they need him on the ice for all 82 games. As we know, injuries have unfortunately hindered his production through the years. So avoiding the injury bug will be Barkov’s biggest hurdle standing in his way. With a little luck however, maybe just maybe he can finally play in a full 82 game regular season. Fingers crossed!
Another area that must be mentioned is his time on the ice. Last year, Aleksander averaged 19 minutes a game throughout the course of the season. If the Cats are to get the best out Barkov, then they really need to increase his playing time. The youngster can easily play 25 minutes a night, no problem. Maybe even more!
Overall, the key to success has always and will always be in Barkov’s hand (in my opinion). When the puck is on his stick, it feels as if something special is going to happen (which is usually does). It’s up to the Florida Panthers to increase his playing time, while also hoping that he can finally avoid the injury bug for the first time in his career.