ColoradoAvalanche.com will look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects in the week leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft. The top three North American skaters and the top two European skaters according to NHL Central Scouting's final rankings will be profiled. First up is the No. 1 ranked European skater, Aleksander Barkov of Finland.
|Barkov was the youngest player in Finnish hockey history to play in a game and score a goal for the county at a world championship during the 2012 world juniors.
In an especially deep draft class, Finnish skater Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov belongs as one of the best players at the top.
His patience, vision and awareness has helped separate him from others in the 2013 draft class, as well as his ability to protect the puck and use his sharp hockey IQ to slow the game down. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound center is one of the most complete players available this year, and his ability to play a solid defensive game is one quality that won’t be overlooked on draft day.
Barkov ended the 2012-13 season as NHL Central Scouting's No. 1 draft-eligible European skater, a position he also held when the mid-season rankings were released in January.
The 17-year-old will be one of the youngest skaters eligible for this year's draft, but he has already proven that he can compete at a high-level professionally after playing an entire season for Tappara in the SM-Liiga – Finland’s top professional league. That experience should help to prepare him for the increased physicality of the NHL.
"It helps very much," Barkov said to NHL.com of already playing against professional competition. "In the NHL, you play against men and I have already played two years against men in Finland at a high level. Of course it's very tough to play in the NHL, but it helps me."
In 53 games with Tappara last season, Barkov finished second on the team in scoring with 48 points (21g/27a) and had a plus-18 rating on the season. In the playoffs, he had five points in as many games (all assists) and had a plus-3 rating before sustaining a shoulder injury that ended his playoff run. Tappara went on to win the SM-Liiga silver medal.
Barkov had shoulder surgery in April and should be fully healed when NHL training camps open in September.
"He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said of Barkov. "He's a very good stick-handler with great vision. He's one the better two-way players in this class and has shown more consistency than any other European over a full season."
In international play, Barkov notched three goals and four assists in six games for Finland at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
The NHL Scouting Combine – A Learning Experience
Lots of attention from NHL teams are given to the players at the scouting combine leading up to the NHL Draft, but sometimes it is the players that learn the most from the experience. This was the case for Barkov, who learned a little about himself during the interview process.
"I didn't know that my English is so good," he said. "I thought that I can't speak but then it was easy."
Highlights From His 2012-13 Season
- SM-Liiga silver medal
Did You Know?
- At the 2012 World Junior Championship he became the youngest Finnish player (16 years, four months) to score a goal at the tournament when he tallied against Slovakia in the quarterfinals.
- Barkov was born in Finland, but holds dual citizenship in Finland and Russia.
- His father – also named Aleksander Barkov – had a long professional career in Europe, playing 11 years in the Soviet Union, one year in Italy and 10 years in Finland before retiring in 2003-04.
- His mother, Olga, also has a sports background as she played on the Russian national basketball team.
- He is fluent in Finnish, Russian and English.