SUNRISE, Fla. -- Connor McDavid and Aleksander Barkov usually only to get to play against each other twice a season.

In the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid, the game's most talented offensive player, will potentially go head-to-head with Barkov, the reigning Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward, for as many as seven games with hockey's biggest prize on the line.

It will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the Final between McDavid's Edmonton Oilers and Barkov's Florida Panthers, which begins with Game 1 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVAS).

"It's always fun when you get into the playoffs, and you've got some of the best players playing against each other in meaningful games," Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said at Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Friday. "I'm sure they're thinking kind of the same thing over there, but really whoever you go against, you've got to find a way to beat them, whether it's Barkov or (Sam) Bennett or their other couple of lines. So, it's always a challenge and it's going to be fun."

McDavid, a three-time winner of the Hart Trophy (2016-17, 2020-21, 2022-23) as the NHL's most valuable player, and finalist again this season, leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 31 points (five goals, 26 assists) in 18 games. The 27-year-old center was third in the NHL during the regular season with 132 points (32 goals, 100 assists) in 76 games, the seventh time in his nine NHL seasons he reached 100.

McDavid has won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL leader in points during the regular season five times (2016-18, 2020-23).

"He's a really, really good player," Barkov said. "He's an exceptional talent, for sure. Everyone knows how good he is. I don't need to start talking about his game here, but it's going to take the whole team, for sure. Every guy on the ice needs to be aware of how to play against him."

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Barkov, a two-time winner of the Selke Trophy (also 2020-21), is tied with Carter Verhaeghe for second on the Panthers with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 17 playoff games, two behind Matthew Tkachuk for the team lead, including a team-high three game-winning goals.

Utilizing his size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), strength and skating, the 28-year-old center has already helped the Panthers contain some of the top offensive players in the NHL on their path to their second consecutive Cup Final appearance, including Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov in the first round, Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak in the second round and New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin in the Eastern Conference Final.

"He's a great player. Great player," McDavid said. "He's a full 200-foot player. He's great in the offensive zone. Obviously, defensively he's as good as it gets. It's going to be a great challenge, and I'm excited about it."

Of course, McDavid and Barkov each has a strong supporting cast.

Forward Leon Draisaitl, the other half of Edmonton's dynamic duo and a Hart Trophy winner in 2019-20, is second in the playoffs with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) after he had 106 (41 goals, 65 assists) in 81 games during the regular season. Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard is third with 27 playoff points (six goals, 21 assists), Nugent-Hopkins is tied for fourth with 20 (six goals, 14 assists), and forward Zach Hyman leads all players with 14 goals after he was third in the NHL with 54 during the regular season.

Barkov has a lot of talent around him as well, including Tkachuk, Verhaeghe, forwards Sam Reinhart (eight goals, four assists) and Anton Lundell (three goals, nine assists) with 12 points each, forward Sam Bennett with 10 points (six goals, four assists), and defenseman Gustav Forsling with 11 (four goals, seven assists).

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Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner will undoubtedly have a say in the outcome of the series as well.

But McDavid and Barkov, each the captain of his team, encapsulate this matchup between the Oilers high-powered offense and the Panthers balanced two-way play.

"They are two great players," said ESPN studio analyst Mark Messier, who won the Stanley Cup five times with the Oilers and once with the New York Rangers. "Connor is probably the most gifted player we've seen in some time in our game and Barkov is probably the best two-way player in our game right now with his size and reach and skating and skill; it's an incredible matchup.

"The guys will testify to that, who have had to play against him in these playoffs."

Barkov is trying to lead the Panthers to their first championship after they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup Final last season. With the Oilers in their first Cup Final since 2006, McDavid is seeking to lead them to their first championship since 1990.

Florida will have last line change as the home team for the first two games of the series, but coach Paul Maurice didn't give any hints Friday whether he plans to match Barkov against McDavid. The Panthers could also use Bennett against McDavid's line with the defense pair of Forsling and Aaron Ekblad, and match Barkov against Draisaitl – if McDavid and Draisaitl remain on separate lines.

"We all have a match and we have an idea going into the game, and those are good ideas," Maurice said. " … You've watched your team play for years, and we know what Barkov is and we know what McDavid is, but that puck's going to drop and it's not always what you think."

Barkov said he'd welcome the assignment of playing against McDavid, if called upon.

"Of course, if you want to win, you need to beat the best and that's the challenge that we've been through the whole playoffs," Barkov said. "So, it's going to be a fun challenge."