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Aleksander Barkov put together the best season of his still-young career this year. Now the Florida Panthers’ captain also has recognition in the form of his second major trophy.
Barkov won the Frank J. Selke Trophy on Friday. The award is given annually to the NHL’s best defensive forward, as voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
It’s a fitting honor for Barkov, who has had a reputation as one of the league’s best two-way forwards ever since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. While he has only been to one NHL All-Star Game, Barkov perennially had a reputation as one of the league’s most underrated players because of the end-to-end work he does that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet.
There was no All-Star Game during the 2020-21 NHL season, but Barkov, 25, certainly would’ve been picked for it as he put together a breakout season to lead the Panthers to the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2016. The star center set a new career mark with 0.52 goals per game in the shortened 56-game schedule and averaged 1.16 points per game. He also managed a career-best 54.9 win percentage on faceoffs and ranked ninth among forwards in time on ice at 20:56 per game.
The Finnish forward played significant minutes in all three phases for Florida, which set a franchise record for points percentage and tied a franchise record for goal differential. He played 4:02 per game on the power play and 1:25 on the penalty kill. He led all Panthers forwards in time on ice and takeaways, and ranked second in blocked shots. Barkov also led Florida forwards in Corsi percentage — the Panthers attempted 59.4 percent of all shots while he was on the ice for 5-on-5 action.
Barkov was a first-time finalist for the Selke Trophy and beat out Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone for the award.
The trophy is Barkov’s second in the NHL. In 2019, he won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which is given out annually to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
After leading the Panthers to a second-place finish in the Central Division, Barkov is set to enter the final year of his contract. Last month, he expressed interest in reaching an extension with Florida and general manager Bill Zito said it’s “paramount” for the organization to figure out a long-term deal for its best player.