LAS VEGAS -- Aleksander Barkov won the Lady Byng Trophy at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday, but the Florida Panthers center has his eyes set on another, bigger trophy.
He unabashedly covets the Stanley Cup, won by the St. Louis Blues after they defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12.
"If you are nominated for any trophy, it means that you have done your job," the Panthers captain said. "This one, the Lady Byng, means a lot. But you want to win that big trophy, like St. Louis just did. I want to be after that, not just personal trophies."
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The Lady Byng is awarded annually to "the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability" as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Barkov, who had an NHL career-best 96 points (35 goals, 61 assists) and eight penalty minutes in 82 games, received 128 first-place votes.
The other finalists were Blues center Ryan O'Reilly and Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan.
The Panthers (36-32-14) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs, finishing 12 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference and marking the third straight season they have not qualified for the postseason. In Barkov's six seasons with Florida, the Panthers have made the playoffs once, in 2016, and were eliminated by the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round.
Yet, Barkov said he believes Florida is moving in the right direction; he points to the fact it missed the playoffs by a single point two seasons ago, it has a three-time Stanley Cup winner in new coach Joel Quenneville and its general manager, Dale Tallon, has promised to be aggressive when free agency starts July 1.
Video: Aleksander Barkov is awarded the Lady Byng Trophy
"I think we have a really good team, in my opinion, and we just need to take that next step that we did not take last year," Barkov said. "Of course, you can't always say, 'There is next year.' It has to start at some point and, hopefully, it is going to start in October."
Quenneville was named coach of the Panthers on April 8, replacing Bob Boughner, who was 80-62-22 in his two seasons. Quenneville's 890 regular-season wins are second in NHL history to Scotty Bowman (1,244).
"That type of guy, he's one of a kind and to have him … and lead the team is awesome," Barkov said.
Barkov said he believes the Panthers already have the skill to reach the next level, even if it is not augmented by additions during free agency, including the rumored possibility of adding Blues Jackets forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, each of whom can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"As players, we need to take that next step," Barkov said. "We wanted to do it last year, but we didn't. This year, we have to do it and we have to do it as a team. There is no more waiting. We just need to do it."
Barkov said he learned a lot from watching the playoffs, particularly observing players at his position. He focused on O'Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Award as MVP of the playoffs and received the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL at the Awards on Wednesday, and Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins, another Selke finalist.
"When you play against [players like that], you see a lot more things, smaller things they do," said Barkov, who finished fifth in the Selke voting. "Of course, you want to do the same things because it works for them."
Barkov has improved statistically in five of his first six NHL seasons but believes he can get even better, which will help him and the Panthers achieve their ultimate goal.
"I can't wait to maybe one day lift the Stanley Cup above my head in a Florida Panthers jersey," he said, "so I'm ready to do whatever it takes."
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