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Edit: Drafted 2nd Overall by the Florida Panthers.
Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov Jr. may be the best Finnish forward prospect in years. The son of Russian immigrants, Aleksander Barkov Sr. was a Russian hockey player who was playing professionally in Finland when Junior was born.
Barkov is one of the youngest players in this NHL Draft, only a few weeks away from being a 2014 draft prospect. But being the “youngest” is nothing new for Barkov. At the 2012 World Junior Championships, he became the youngest player ever to score a goal at the event. Barkov has a long history of representing his country, playing in events such as the Under 18s, the WJC, the four nations, the five nations, and other major tournaments for junior aged players. He was the MVP of the 4 nations event last fall, leading Finland to a 2nd place finish.
Barkov has spent this season playing for Tappara in the Finnish SM-Liiga, the highest level of hockey in Finland. As a 17 year old playing in a men’s league, he has put up 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games and was amongst the team scoring leaders all season long. The impressive results certainly bode well for Barkov’s future and NHL scouts have taken notice.
Born — Tampere, Finland
Height 6.02 — Weight 194 — Shoots Left
Barkov has outstanding hands, and combined with his great size, is excellent at protecting the puck. He is a hard worker winning battles along the boards, and getting to the front of the net. He loves to drive the net with the puck, using his quick hands to score goals. Barkov can also score by utilizing a good wrist shot and excellent release. However, he is more a playmaker than a scorer, as Barkov also possesses excellent vision, and passing skills, and uses his poise to wait that one extra second for a teammate to get open before hitting him on the tape for an excellent scoring opportunity. He uses his size effectively and can be called a power forward type of prospect. He will need to add some muscle mass to his frame to continue to play that game in the NHL, but this is true of most prospects his age. What really helps Barkov is excellent hockey sense, as he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Barkov’s main weakness, when compared to other prospects at the very top of this draft, is his skating. He’s not a bad skater, in fact I’d call him slightly above average. However he does not reach the good, or very good category that we see in the other top picks. He certainly could use some work on an awkward stride, and his top end speed. His first step is decent, as is his acceleration, but again these are both areas he could improve going forward. His balance and power are the best attributes to his skating game. It is here that the hockey sense and positioning of Barkov really shows its worth, as he is able to mask these skating deficiencies (even on bigger international sized ice) by being in the right spot at the right time.
Defensively, Barkov is well developped, understanding his responsibility as a centre and getting back deep to help defencemen. He again uses his size to his advantage along the boards and in containing his opponents to the outside. He understands the play, and cuts down passing and shooting lanes effectively. His game is certainly very well rounded.
Barkov is at the top of our 2nd tier of draft prospects, and while not really in the conversation with Drouin, Jones, and MacKinnon, he is still an excellent prospect in his own right, and one of the best Finnish players in years. His hands have been compared to Pavel Datsyuk, and you can see a Datsyukian style deke in one of our videos below. That said, he’s game isn’t all Datsyuk like qualities, and there are certainly elements of a long lost Sedin brother to be seen in his style. Remember again, these are style comparisons, and not potential. As for potential, we see Barkov’s ceiling as a future 1st line centre. Capable of playing a strong-two way game, and a possible point-per-game player.
Thanks for Reading, and Check back tomorrow where we will reveal the number 5 prospect for this June’s NHL Draft.
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