Florida Panthers: Why Aleksander Barkov Could Win the Selke Trophy this Year

Now that he’s proved to be an elite two-way forward in the NHL, it shouldn’t shock anyone to see Aleksander Barkov win the Selke Trophy this year.

Since he was originally drafted second overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers, the hockey world had always considered Aleksander Barkov to be a good two-way center.

For years, he had always been deemed as an underrated player, receiving minimal recognition around the league. But, after his breakout 96-point season last year, Barkov is starting to get the league-wide attention he deserves.

The hockey world is starting to take notice of the superstar captain that resides in South Florida. Teams put up their top lines against him on a nightly basis, yet they still seem to struggle against his relentless forecheck and firepower offense. As Barkov continues to tear it up, he’s started to be highly considered for multiple awards.

One of these awards is the Selke Trophy, an annual prize presented at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

When people think of this award, the first name that usually comes to mind is arguably the best two-way player the NHL has ever seen: Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.

Bergeron, who has won the trophy on four occasions throughout his career, has both tremendous skill on the offensive and defensive sides of the game.

On top of that, he’s been known to be an expert in the faceoff dot. Even though Bergeron is usually the front-runner for this honor, Barkov has the chance to give him a run for his money.

While it’s entirely possible, a lot needs to happen for Barkov to win the Selke this season. There are plenty of worthy candidates like Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O’Reilly, Anze Kopitar, Mark Stone, and more.

To even be considered for the Selke Trophy, Barkov needs to almost replicate his offensive performance from last year.

Maybe he doesn’t have to reach 96 points, but if he wants the award, he needs to be in on plenty of Panther goals this season. For example, when Ryan O’Reilly won the trophy last season, he had a career year in points (77), showing how his offense played a vital role in winning the award.

Additionally, and most importantly, playing a well-rounded defensive game is essential to win this award. One way of explaining this is the idea that Barkov needs to play a “200-foot game,” an idea emphasized by anyone who describes candidates of this award.

On top of the idea that it felt like he was a takeaway machine, Barkov also was in the top five this year for most faceoffs won, truly showing his improvement on the defensive side of the game.

As well, while this may not have to do with the actual criteria of the award, the trend seems to be that whoever wins the trophy contends in that year’s playoffs.

Since Barkov joined the team, the Cats have only made the playoffs once, leading to a first-round exit to the New York Islanders. This is obviously not the recipe for success for Barkov exclusively, but as well as for the team.

Realistically, it would be unfair to pin the playoffs on Barkov only, considering it takes a team to book a playoff spot. The two go hand-in-hand, and if the Panthers want to end the trend of not making the postseason, then they’re going to need everyone on board to achieve such goal. Not just Barkov.

Ideally, Barkov has proved to be an elite two-way center in the NHL over the last few years. His remarkable 200-foot game has led him to be in the conversation to get his first Selke Trophy. If he ever had a real shot of winning the award, this has to be the year.

If he performs similarly to the way he did last season, who’s to say that Aleksander Barkov doesn’t have a great shot at winning his first-ever Selke Trophy?