TORONTO -- The NHL Scouting Combine is an opportunity for teams to learn about the players they might take in the 2013 NHL Draft. But sometimes the players learn something about themselves. That was the case for Aleksander Barkov, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European skater.
"I didn't know that my English is so good," he said. "I thought that I can't speak but then it was easy."
Barkov already was highly regarded because of his play. The 17-year-old center had 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games with Tappara in sm-Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and also had three goals and four assists in seven games for Finland at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. He had five assists in five playoff games in Finland before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury March 27. He had surgery in April and said he can start skating next week, with the intention of being 100 percent when NHL training camps open.
The injury prevented him from going through the fitness testing portion of the Combine, but that likely won't keep teams from taking him high, especially because of the success he had playing against grown men in Finland.
"It helps very much," Barkov said of 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."
Barkov said he feels he's ready to play in the NHL next season, and he'll spend some time proving that with a few meetings he has scheduled with teams prior to the draft June 30.
He wouldn't specify which teams he would visit, but said they were "in the top seven" of this year's draft order, because that's the range he believes he'll be picked.