#16 / Center
Height: 6’3” | Weight: 215 | Born: September 2, 1995
Birthplace: Tampere, Finland | Acquired: Drafted 1st Round, 2nd overall in 2013
Assets: Blessed with ideal size and strength for the center position at the National Hockey League level, he competes for every square inch of ice. Produces good numbers thanks to his poise and playmaking ability.
Flaws: May need to amp up his physicality in North American-sized ice. Must also live up to expectations as the son of a legendary player in his hometown. Also needs to avoid injury to maximize NHL output.
Career Potential: Elite two-way center.
Why you should know who he is: Let’s put it this way: the Panthers have a mortal lock Hart Trophy finalist... and Barkov is better than him. Despite missing 15 games, Barkov still managed to score 39 goals and add 49 assists, piling up the points every which way, be it even-strength, on the power play or shorthanded. He is an absolutely elite driver of offense, which, for you visual learners, looks (terrifyingly for Caps fans) like this:
And Barkov’s production isn’t coming in soft minutes either - Barkov faces top competition, starts shifts in all three zones and protects leads, which helped earn him last season’s Selke Trophy as best defensive forward. Barkov is the total package: elite offense and defense; it’s not hard to see why one in five of his peers named him the game’s most complete player.
How the Caps can stop him: Jeez... hope he gets food poisoning? It’s hard to imagine a power-versus-power match-up of Barkov’s line against Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin’s not turning out very poorly for the Caps, so trying to avoid that could be a start. But it will be critical for whichever Caps are on the ice against Barkov to not be overly aggressive at the offensive end of the ice and be particularly strong at the defensive blueline and in coverage and clears in their own end. It may not be fun or sexy, but the Caps’ best chance against this line (and this team) is going to be to pack it in a bit and try to muddy the track for this meet.