Top European prospect Barkov looking to become known commodity in NHL

By Tony Piscotta
Aleksander Barkov - Finland

Photo: Tappara forward Aleksander Barkov has proven his game against men in the Sm-Liiga, and now looks to test his abilities in North America (courtesy of Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images)

 

For most North American hockey fans, the top prospects in this year's NHL Draft, Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, and Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones, are well known commodities.

But the top European prospect according to Central Scouting's final rankings, Finnish forward Aleksander Barkov, is not as familiar to fans, yet scouts are well aware of his potential.

For the past two seasons, Barkov has played in Finland's top pro league, the SM-Liiga, and this past season he was the second-leading scorer for Tappara Tampere behind former NHL forward Ville Nieminen.

Hockey's Future caught up with Barkov at the prospect media event on Friday in Weehawken, NJ.

Barkov, like several of the prospects in the 2013 NHL Draft, is the son of a professional athlete, as his father Alexander played in the Russian and Finnish leagues and played in three World Championships for the Russian national team.

"He taught me pretty much, of course," said the younger Barkov. "He played ten years in the same team where I play in now (Tappara). We both know very much about teams, players and coaches. After every practice and game he gave me some advice."

While much of the talk about the draft centered around Colorado's top pick and the Avalanche's apparent decision to select MacKinnon, Barkov was just looking to start an NHL career .

"The team doesn't matter. My dream has always been to play in the NHL not any one team in the NHL," he said.

Like the other top players, he is thought to be almost ready – though the nagging season-ending shoulder injury is still in the healing process and may delay his arrival in North America a bit.

"It's good now but I can't shoot yet. I can do other training," Barkov explained when asked about his shoulder. "If I'm in good shape with this shoulder I'll come here if I get the chance."

Barkov's size and skill set, as well as his ability to read plays and his unselfish nature that makes the players around him better, allow him to play in all situations and are well in advance of his age.

One adjustment that Barkov must make is the transition to North American hockey that all Europeans must undertake. For his part, Barkov is not overly concerned about adapting to a different brand of hockey.

"Of course there's smaller rinks and different kind of players. There is a more physical game than in Europe. But I think mostly it's the same. Hockey is hockey. I think it doesn't matter for me where I'm playing in Europe or North America," said Barkov, who felt playing with and against NHL players during the NHL lockout last fall (Jannik Hansen and Kurtis Foster played for Tappara) was a valuable experience.

"I played with and against very good players like Mikk

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