Aleksander Barkov: The NHL’s Best Kept Secret!

Image property of Kim Smith

For those that were fortunate enough to have seen what is likely the goal of the year last night, you already know what I’m talking about. For those that didn’t see it, you need to just sit and watch. Over and over again, because after the first 5 times, you still won’t believe it.

The goal has been described as nasty. Awesome. Unreal. Beautiful. And of course, Sexy!

These are the types of plays that Aleksander Barkov makes so effortlessly and with such a calm demeanor it’s a wonder how he can’t get more excited about them. He should know that a goal like the one he scored last night deserves a bigger celebration. A little more flair, and a little more fist pumping. But that’s not who Aleksander Barkov is. And the rest of the NHL fanbase outside of South Florida is missing out.

The goal which was his second of the game, and the ultimate game winner was just part of a 4 point night for the Panther Captain, as he capped it off with his 3rd of the night for his second hat trick of the season. Both against Canadien teams (Toronto & Montreal). When asked about the goal, this is what the young (22 years old) captain said:

“I mean, yeah, those are nice goals,” Barkov said after the game. “I think I’ve tried it like 17 times in my career and it worked (for) the first time so I’m kinda happy, but of course, more importantly, two points and a good win.

“I’ve seen those [types of goals] in the YouTube and in highlights, and I was just dreaming about maybe one day I can score that kind of goal,” he added. “It happened tonight, and of course I’m happy.”

Well Sasha, your dream came true. Barkov is arguably the best player on the Panthers as he’s demonstrated since day one his maturity, his attention to detail, and his skillset, which is something he’s very humble about, as you can tell not only in his comments, but in the way he celebrates. Or rather doesn’t.

Barkov is all about winning, and doesn’t necessarily put all that much into the fanfare. He knows that he has a job to do, and as the leader of this young Panther team, he’s aware of the big picture.

What is amazing to others that don’t see him on a nightly basis, but is routine for Florida fans and teammates as well is just how good he is. And in reality, how good he can still be. He came to the Panthers as the 2nd overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft. While his initial season wasn’t exactly superb, he’s continued to get better each and every year he’s been a Panther. Remember as well, that first season he only played 54 games on a bad Panther team that only won 29 games.

He’s a quiet leader that plays in all the important situations, including special teams. He’s typically the second shooter in the shootout, and has been known to literally freeze netminders, causing them to leave the ice quickly, with parts of their equipment and ego in the crease after he’s scored.

Here’s an example of one of his many shootout goals:

Barkov is as graceful as he is hard working. He doesn’t appear fast at times, but that’s because he’s such a smooth skater who as you saw in last night’s highlight reel goal, can shift into high gear with just two or three steps. It’s really a shame that he wasn’t selected to this year’s NHL All-Star game. The hockey world needed to see just what all the excitement is about.

Barkov is not only a future superstar, he’s already a current one. The game’s flashy players who get the notoriety should not be limited to the new generation of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov, or the veterans like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane.

Barkov deserves a significant more amount of “press” than he’s been getting, and the NHL could do a much better job of showcasing him. He’s a Selke Candidate, Lady Byng Candidate and is the Panthers MVP. He has the attributes that you can’t teach, and the desire to continue to get even better than he already is.

The Florida Panthers are fortunate to have him, and love him.

The rest of the NHL deserves more opportunities to appreciate him.

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