Aleksander Barkov has come back for the 2020-21 season looking for vengeance. He posted his fourth-lowest season in point totals last season, with 62 points in 66 games. Many around the league saw Barkov’s season as a down year, despite finishing second on the team in points. Nonetheless, Barkov came into the abbreviated season as the perfect candidate to have a bounce-back season for the Florida Panthers. Yet, bounce back might be a bit of an understatement to describe Barkov’s play. For a player who has finished in the top 10 of Selke voting three of the last five seasons running every year since the 2014-15 season, he seems due. This season might be Barkov’s best chance at finally receiving the honour of being named a Frank J. Selke Trophy winner.
Florida Panthers Aleksander Barkov is the 2020-21 Selke Front-Runner
Along with the Hart, Vezina, and Norris Trophies. The Frank J. Selke award is arguably one of the most notable awards given out every season. Created by the NHL Board of Governors back in 1977, the award was meant to “recognize the forward who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game.” As the NHL evolved, so did the centre position as it turned into a third “defenceman” on the ice. Since the creation of the award, only 11 of its 42 recipients have not played at the centre position.
Although, that is not the sole purpose for giving Barkov the Selke. Barkov is part of one of the most dynamic forward lines in the league, with at least 125 minutes played together this season. With Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe on his wings, the Panthers’ top line transition game is incredible. Their speed reminds one of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins teams that blew by their opponents during the playoffs. Between their speed, decisiveness, high-end skill, and even higher hockey IQ, Aleksander Barkov is leading the charge for not only his line but the whole team too.
Aleksander Barkov’s Impact
Currently, we are pretty much at the half-way point of the season. We have a better idea of how the regular season will end. While no one can predict the future, and stranger things have happened, ask the St. Louis Blues. We have a rough idea of where the teams will end up for the post-season. With Barkov a significant factor in the Panther’s success so far, his underlying, more “advanced” numbers genuinely do the Panthers captain justice.
Not only is Barkov second on the team in points with nine goals and 28 points. He is also top-20 in the league in points and assists this season. His face-off win percentage is above his career average at 52.8 percent. His Expected Goals For currently sits at 13.3. While his Expected Goals Against is at 3.4, leaving him with an impressive plus/minus ratio of 9.9.
Compared to previous Selke winners like Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar, it was not their points or highlight-reel plays that secured them the award. Their ultimate game and two-way play lead them to be the best defensive forward in the league at that time. Now, to compare those two player’s stats to Barkov’s while in the middle of the season would be premature. Yet, looking at them so far… Aleksander Barkov is a clear-cut favourite to win the Frank J. Selke award.