At the age of 16 last season, Alexander Barkov made his debut in SM-liiga, the top professional league in his native Finland. He had seven goals and nine assists in 32 games with Tappara, and his 16 points were fourth among the 64 skaters age 21 and under.
The son of a 22 year pro hockey veteran, Alexander Barkov displayed plenty of skill and maturity as a 16-year-old in Finland's top professional league. (Courtesy: Mika Kylmaniemi)
"It was big step [from the under-20 league], but there's a better game in SM-liiga," Barkov told NHL.com. "I tried to play my own game."
He excelled when he had the chance, but lost time when he was hit in the mouth with a puck and battled mononucleosis.
Healthy and ready for the 2012-13 season, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound center is expected to be among the top prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting listed him as an A player to watch on its preliminary list.
And he's living up to that ranking so far, with four goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating in his first four games.
"He's a skilled, mature center with good size," Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting, told NHL.com. "Cool, smart center with excellent vision -- very good playmaker and passer. Never panics. Good team player."
Some of that comes from Barkov's bloodlines. His father, Alexander, played professionally for 22 seasons in Russia, Italy, and for the final 10 seasons with Tappara. He helped Tappara win the SM-Liiga title in 2002-03.