The Florida Panthers have good reason to be excited about 2013 No. 2 overall pick Aleksander Barkov. He was a leading scorer for his team in the Finnish elite league last year as a 17-year-old and the now 18-year-old center had a history-making start to his NHL career.
Barkov scored a huge third-period goal for the Panthers Thursday night in his NHL debut, a 4-2 win over Dallas. In doing so, he both tied the game and became the youngest goal-scorer in the NHL's post-expansion era (which began in 1967).
According to NHL PR, the last player to score a goal that was younger than Barkov's 18 years and 31 days, was Ted “Teeder” Kennedy who did so for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 8, 1944, at age 18 years, 27 days. Just missed it.
The Finnish forward with Russian bloodlines was a surprise pick for Florida at No. 2, with the Panthers leaving dynamic winger Jonathan Drouin (who went No. 3 to the Lightning) and top defenseman Seth Jones (No. 4 to Nashville) on the board. The Panthers had an immediate need at center, however, and Barkov had pro experience coming into the year.
Many scouts believed he might be the most NHL-ready prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft. Only time will tell if the Panthers made the right decision, as a pick can only be judged on the value he brings to the franchise that selected him over the course of his entire career there. However, for Barkov to have such a remarkable first showing must be exciting for GM Dale Tallon, who has built a pretty solid prospect base for the Panthers over the last few years.