Florida Panthers: Why Aleksander Barkov Deserves the ‘Last Men in’ Vote

With time running out on the final voting for the NHL All-Star Game, one notable Panther is on the brink of being undeservedly snubbed, despite a sluggish start.

This 2019-20 season has been an interesting one for Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov. Barkov, after recording a franchise-record for points in a season (96), started this season off slow.

Barkov went 12 games without scoring to open October but still managed to be above point-per-game standards after the first month of play. Since then, Barkov has recorded 11 multi-point games and is ranked 13th in the NHL in scoring with 45 points.

Barkov’s point tally is the highest amongst non-All-Stars. Barkov would have been a no-doubt All-Star on other Atlantic teams such as Detroit, Ottawa, or Montreal, or even Florida if it wasn’t for Jonathan Huberdeau’s stellar season. Huberdeau’s 57 points ranks him sixth amongst the entire NHL in points, leading Barkov towards the “Last Men In” fan vote.

The problem with this fan vote is that it’s mostly a popularity contest that doesn’t always reward the best player, but most constant fan base. Two seasons ago, the “Last Men In” vote went to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s forward Brayden Point, while last season’s went to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ John Tavares. A Panthers player has never won the Last-Men In vote.

This season, however, that needs to change. Barkov being snubbed from the All-Star Game would be an embarrassment to the voters, especially when looking at the remaining nominees.

For starters, Aleksander Barkov has the second-best plus-minus, behind the legendary Patrice Bergeron. While Bergeron is still a top center in this league, the veteran is playing alongside two of the best wingers in the world, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak contributing to 121 goals already this season. Both of those two are deservedly All-Stars. While Bergeron’s stats are still impressive, it should come with a pretty significant asterisk.

Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin is the only defenseman on the last man vote. Dahlin, compared to the rest of the defensemen, isn’t deserving of All-Star status. Dahlin, unlike Barkov, hasn’t been elite this year. Not only is he 10 points and 17 points behind both Atlantic defensive all-stars in Montreal’s Shea Weber and Victor Hedman, but he’s in the minus in plus-minus, ranking at -2 with only two goals to his name.

For the rest of the forwards, including Mitch Marner, Steven Stamkos, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Max Domi, and Dylan Larkin, they’re all behind Barkov in points. Pageau’s had a remarkable season and Larkin is struggling to contribute on a poor team, but neither deserve to be All-Stars. It’s even pretty fair to say that Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Duclair, the two nominees to represent Detroit and Ottawa in St. Louis, wouldn’t make it over Barkov if it wasn’t for the rules of one player per team.

Domi, who had an incredible season last year, has struggled with both injuries and consistency this season. With just 32 points on the year, 12 being goals, it’s not worth giving him your vote.

That leaves Stamkos and Marner, two incredible talents. Again, however, Barkov is not only more consistent offensively this season, but much better this year. It says something when Steven Stamkos is playing with two All-Star-caliber players in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, who just had a four-point game versus the Vancouver Canucks the other night, but is still negative in plus-minus.

In the All-Star Game, you want to see plenty of fun action and great goals. For a team of nine skaters to contribute these great goals with little chemistry, you want to see some dynamic duos. Hence why Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov dominated the 2017 All-Star Game in Tampa.

With that, why wouldn’t fans want to watch Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov tear apart top-tier defensemen like Dougie Hamilton or John Carlson? Fans tune into the All-Star Game to see their team’s best players, but also for highlight-reel goals. Goals that Huberdeau and Barkov turn home seemingly every night this year.

Next: Evgenii Dadonov is Having a Breakout Season

The final day to vote is January 10th, which means Panthers fans can still put up to 30 brackets voting for Aleksander Barkov in the next three days.

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