For the first time in his NHL career, Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov claimed the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy.
It took some time for Aleksander Barkov to claim his first individual trophy at the NHL Awards, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Two seasons ago (2017-18), Barkov placed third in the Byng running and fourth in the Selke. Arguably speaking, that was the year Barkov should’ve been crowned the winner of the Selke, demonstrating the best defensive play in comparison to his peers. But unfortunately, the award was given to Anze Kopitar of the L.A. Kings.
That same year, Barkov was also neck and neck with Ryan O’Reilly and William Karlsson – the two other nominees for the Lady Byng Award – but William Karlsson narrowly beat out the two to claim the prize.
Heading all the way back to the 2015-16 campaign, Barkov placed even closer in the running for the Byng. He placed second, losing out to none other than to Anze Kopitar.
But despite these previous shortcomings, Barkov only elevated his play and became stronger as each season passed. His second-to-none work rate and his eagerness to never quit ultimately led him up to this point.
Going up against Sean Monahan and Ryan O’Reilly for the Lady Byng Memorial – an award Barkov has been nominated for in the past three consecutive seasons – Barkov was considered the favorite to take home the award.
After the selection was revealed, Barkov’s name was called, signaling the Lady Byng was his for the first time in his NHL career.
In 82 games this past season, Barkov played a total of 1833 minutes (averaging 22:21 a night) while only committing eight penalty minutes.
His running mates, Ryan O’Reilly and Sean Monahan, posted twelve penalty minutes each in a grand total of 1702 (20:46 ATOI) and 1486 (19:03 ATOI) minutes, taking part in 82 and 78 games, respectively.
For Barkov, the award couldn’t have come any sooner, and as he continues to grow over the foreseeable future, his personal trophy cabinet will only grow, as well.
Now that the monkey is off his back, Barkov can worry about the bigger hurdle standing in his way: helping the Florida Panthers reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.