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2020-21 Season Rewind: Aleksander Barkov

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2020-21 Season Rewind: Barkov

2020-21 Season Rewind: Aleksander Barkov

2020-21 season highlights from Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov

  • 06:02 •

Aleksander Barkov is finally starting to get his due around the NHL.

Long considered the most-underrated player in the league, it's safe to say this past season not only cemented the Panthers captain as properly rated, but also as one of the best players in the game among media pundits, players, fans and pretty much anyone else with a pair of eyeballs.

Don't believe me? Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

Starting on the offensive side of the puck, the 25-year-old center produced at well better than a point-per-game clip for the second time in his past three seasons, finishing second on the team in scoring with 58 points in 50 games, including filling up the net with a team-leading 26 goals.

Becoming the only player in franchise history to register six consecutive 50-point and 20-goal seasons, he also led the team in even-strength goals (18), even-strength points (38) and shots on goal (176), while sitting second in assists (32), power-play goals (7), power-play points (19).

Catching fire in the second half, he closed out the regular season with 18 goals in 25 games.

"He's always impressed me, but this year he's just stepped it up and is on another level right now," said Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, a teammate of Barkov's for the past eight seasons. "One-on-one, he wins his battle every time. I wouldn't want to play against him."

On defense, Barkov's exceptional play earned him some well-deserved hardware.

After building up a reputation as one of the top two-way players in the game over the past several seasons, the PHWA finally took notice by voting him as this season's winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given annually to the best defensive forward in the league.

Beating out Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Vegas' Mark Stone for the award, Barkov essentially dominated the voting, earning 62 out of 100 first-place votes and racking up 780 voting points.

"It feels unbelievable," Barkov said after winning the award. "This is one of the biggest honors I've had in my life and in my hockey career. Obviously, it's a team sport. It would have never been possible without my teammates, coaches, trainers, GM and everyone in our organization."

Helping the Panthers achieve their lowest goals-against average (2.70) since 2015-16, Barkov ranked ninth among NHL forwards in average ice time per game (20:56) and 10th in total face-offs (1,026), while also posting a career-high 54.9% winning percentage in the dot this season.

Making passing lanes disappear, he also accumulated a team-leading 39 takeaways.

As for his strong possession numbers, check out the "Cool Stat" section later in this article.

"I've played against him," Panthers forward Noel Acciari said. "I was one of the lines that tried to shut him down. It's very, very hard to do. Not many people can do it, if any. Joining him and seeing his work ethic and what does to get ready for games, he's an unbelievable player."

Making his third-career trip to the postseason, Barkov also produced during the playoffs. In six games against the cross-state rival Lightning, he recorded seven points (one goal, six assists), won 52.9% of his faceoffs, and finished the series with a stalwart 60.56 CF% at 5-on-5 play.

Looking ahead, it'll be exciting to see what heights Barkov and the Panthers reach in 2021-22.

"I think we took a huge step forward with the organization, with the team in the right direction," Barkov said. "We played really good hockey over almost every game in the season, even in the playoffs we played good hockey, but just couldn't come up with the wins that we needed. [It was a] huge step forward, but we're not satisfied, we're not done. This is just the beginning."

COOL STAT

It's pretty incredible how consistent Barkov was throughout the season.

Despite being tasked with shutting down the opposition's most-dangerous players nearly every time he stepped onto the ice, the two-way stud managed to finish with a Corsi for percentage at or above 50% in 41 of the 50 contests that he suited up in, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Overall, his career-high 58.90 CF% at 5-on-5 also placed him first among Florida's regulars.

"You want to do the right things every game, starting from Game 1 until the end," Barkov said. "I played the way I really wanted to, starting from Game 1 and almost all the way through the end. I had ups and downs, but pretty much the whole season I was consistent. I was happy with it, the way I was consistent. But, obviously, I need to get better. I can get better."

With Barkov leading the charge, the Panthers finished as a top-5 possession teams in the NHL.

BEST GAME

There were obviously lot of games to choose from, so this is more of a personal pick.

In addition to putting forth his most-dominant possession game of the season, Barkov tallied two goals and one assist while skating 25:08 during a 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks on March 13. When he was on the ice at 5-on-5, the Panthers owned lopsided advantages in shot attempts (24-7), shots on goal (15-6), scoring chances (14-4) and, most importantly, goals scored (3-0).

Video: Barkov propels Panthers past Blackhawks, 4-2

"He's elite," Panthers forward Anthony Duclair said of Barkov afterwards. "He's one of the best centermen in the league, probably one of the best two-way forwards I've ever played with. He's so skilled, so talented."

A wizard on special teams, Barkov also helped the Panthers go a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Over the 5:04 he skated shorthanded, the Blackhawks managed to fire off only two shots on goal and three shot attempts, while also surrendering a pair of shots on goal in their own end.

As a cherry on top, he also finished the game 19-for-25 (76%) in the faceoff circle.

GOAL OF THE YEAR

Who could forget this face?

With the game on the line and the puck on his stick, Barkov flew into the offensive zone, turned his head slightly to the left and slipped a no-look shot straight past Alex Nedeljkovic with just 24 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes on April 24.

Following the goal, he flashed a sly, GIF-worthy grin before being mobbed by his teammates.

Video: CAR@FLA: Barkov buries no-look shot for game-winner

"He's been doing that all year," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Barkov's creative game-winner. "I think Barky's had a tremendous year, whether it's controlling shifts or dominating possession. He's had some different linemates over the last three weeks, and he still finds ways to be productive."

No stranger to heroics, Barkov finished second on the team in game-winning goals with six.

STAY IN TOUCH

How's Barkov spending his offseason?

Follow him on Twitter (@BarkovSasha95) and Instagram (@BarkovSasha) to stay up to date!

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