Flames First Round Targets 2013: Aleksandr Barkov


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pic via Mika Kylmaniemi

Although guys like Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones are probably out of reach for the Flames, there is an outside possibility a probable elite talent in Aleksandr Barkov falls to Calgary at 6th in June.

The native Fin with a Russian name has been on hockey’s radar for a long time and it became especially apparent he was a special player last year when he was one of the highest scoring teens in the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) at just 16 years old. Most kids are just learning to drive at that age, but Barkov scored at 0.5 PPG pace in one of the best pro leagues on the planet.

To put that achievement in perspective, Barkov’s pace was the fifth best amongst teens in the league that year, behind only Mikael Granlund, Markus Granlund, Joel Armia and Teemu Pulkkinen and all of those guys were at least 2-3 years older.

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking too much about his rookie year if the 6’2" center didn’t follow it up with his remarkable sophomore effort. This year Barkov scored 48 points in 53 games for Tappara Tampere, good for second on the team behind for Flame Ville Nieminen who had 50 points – albeit in 4 more games played. Barkov also placed 9th overall in the league in both goals (21) and overall scoring. Keep in mind Barkov is actually one of the youngest available draftees this summer, with a September 2, 1995 birthday. He’s almost a full year younger than Mark Jankowski (Sept. 13, 1994) and Janko was the youngest guy drafted last June.

So yeah…the kid is good.

The Scouting Reports

Barkov has had a lot of eyeballs watching him the last few years, so the scouting reports tend to be in sync much of the time. Corey Pronman sums up the consensus pretty well over at Hockey Prospectus (where he ranked Barkov the 5th best prospect available):

Barkov is one of the greatest NHL Entry Draft prospects to ever come out of Finland. He is a tremendously advanced player, with elite hockey sense. He regularly logged 20 minutes this season, which is rare for a September-born 17-year-old in Finland’s top league. He has an incredible amount of patience, vision, and awareness. He can slow the game down and dictate the tempo, as well as be the focal point on the power play. He also has a high level of defensive skill, showing ability at a very young age to be a quality defensive center. He has good technique on faceoffs, as he keeps his hands low, pulling pucks back quickly.

Despite having good puck skills, he is not a player who will consistently try to stickhandle around players. He is selective, but he has the talent to create offense out of nothing. Barkov is a big, strong player. He will not crash and bang, but he protects the puck well. His skating is a tick below average. It is possible he could improve to an average skater, but his game will not be predicated on blazing past defenders. When bringing the puck out of his zone, he tends to prefer making a good pass rather than rushing the puck up.

For a first hand account of Barkov, I contacted Matias Strozyk of Eliteprospects. He provided this great account:

Apart from Mikael Granlund, Finland hasn’t seen a prospect of Barkov’s level in recent years. I’d say it’s even a pretty close call between those two and you lean towards one or the other based on what you’re looking for. Granlund has flair, soft hands and amazing creativity. Barkov has very good two-way play, a better frame and the strength to go along with it.

Finnish prospects from recent years tend to be on the diminutive size and Barkov is a very welcomed exception. He doesn’t use his size to deliver big hits but protects the puck well and wins battles – partly thanks to his talent with the puck.

Barkov was only 17 years old this past Finnish league season, his first full season with the pros but still became a key player for an eventual silver-medalist. Like last year, he missed some time at the end of the season, on this occasion due to a shoulder injury. Tappara were missing another top 6 forward as well and it’s not wrong to think it was a crucial point of the final series, which they lost in six games. The fact that a 17-year-old being sidelined was a potentially decisive factor in the Finnish league championship series sums up a lot. What’s even more impressive is that Barkov finished 9th in the league in scoring and recorded an average ice-time of 19:31 in 53 games – this during a season were he also racked up a few gruelling miles with the U20 national team.

Barkov has exceptional hockey IQ, creativity and vision, while his defensive skills are far better than Granlund’s. He steals a lot of pucks and is hard to take the puck away from thanks to top notch stickhandling and great ability to protect the puck with his body. His biggest weakness is his skating, which I’m sure will improve over the next couple of years. To be honest, I think issues with his skating has even been a bit exaggerated – it’s not technically perfect and definitely not beautiful, yet powerful and surprisingly effective. Barkov has two special advantages that few Finnish prospects get to enjoy: his father and his winger.

Aleksander Barkov sr. is a coach, most notably in the KHL, and a former elite player who certainly pushes him forward. A similar, if not an even bigger boost is provided by Ville Nieminen, who I’m sure most Flames fans are already somewhat acquainted with. Nieminen spent this past season playing in a line with Barkov and Henrik Haapala, another young prospect and took Barkov under his wings. They’re work-father – work-son type of relationship actually generated a now-popular quote from Barkov following a goal: "Nieminen once said that if you want to get a pizza, go to a pizzeria. If you want to get a goal, go to the net. So I went to the net."

As an overall package, it’s hard to find a prospect of Barkov’s calibre from the draft. I think he’s unlikely to crack the top 3 and Elias Lindholm, maybe even Valeri Nichushkin could end up going ahead of him, but it would be shocking to see him miss the top 10. Barkov is already an elite center for the Finnish league with A) very good finishing, B) very good playmaking and C) very good two-way play. Plus, he’s already got the size and will only get better in everything else, including skating. How often do you stumble upon something like that?

To sum up: Barkov is big, strong, has excellent playmaking and offensive skills and is already a complete, two-way pivot. His only "weakness" seems to be skating, in that he isn’t blazingly fast.

Usually with kids of this age you have a couple of notable areas of strengths and the big question marks are if they will be able to translate their success against grown men and if they can develop a good enough all around game to be useful at the NHL level. Those don’t seem to be concerns with Barkov.

The Numbers

We have already established that Barkov has one of the best NHL equivalencies (NHLE) of this draft class at about 40. Typically any player garnering a 40+ NHLE in their draft year is a future high-end guy in the NHL, with a few rare exceptions. Given the difficulty of his league and the fact he was a key player on a pro team, we can assume Barkov wasn’t riding coattails or enjoying an unusually easy role to garner his offensive totals.

Jonathan Willis of OilersNation and Cult of Hockey did some leg work on Barkov in April and established he is perhaps the best Nordic prospect to arrive on the scene since Peter Forsberg:

Going strictly by the numbers, even at fourth overall (his expected draft position) Aleksander Barkov might be a steal of a deal. An analysis of first round picks out of the top men’s leagues in Sweden and Finland since 1990 shows that only Peter Forsberg can layclaim to a superior season at the same age.

At first, it looks like Barkov performs very well but trails three players – Forsberg and the Sedin twins. However, because the NHL draft cut-off is September 15, the comparison to the Sedins is misleading – with a September 2 birthday, Barkov is at the youngest end of his draft group, while with a September 26 birthday the Sedins were at the oldest end of theirs. In other words, the Sedins are three weeks short of being a full year older than Barkov at the time of these statistics, and so the proper comparison between Barkov and the Sedins is Barkov’s draft year versus the Sedins’ pre-draft season. At the same age as Barkov, Daniel Sedin recorded 13 points in 45 games in the Elitserien; Henrik Sedin recorded five points in 39 contests.


Barkov represents everything the Flames want and need, both now and going forward: a big, strong center with offensive ability and two-way ability. Because he is already a high-end player at both ends of the ice, Barkov is a good bet to develop into the sort of pivot who can both score and drive possession at the NHL level. That’s the sort of player one builds a contender around.

In many other drafts, Barkov would likely be in the conversation for first overall pick. It goes to show how dense the talent is at the top end this year that the big Fin might fall outside of the top-5. If he does and the Flames have the chance to take him at 6th overall when they walk up to the podium in New Jersey, they would be fools to pass on him.

Flames First Round Targets

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  • seve927

    @ Baazlmon

    Must be my Bruins bias – Bergeron just seems to play so much bigger than he is… anyway, my point is that we should be going for Barkov if we can… I could most definitely be wrong on Monahan. Maybe Lindholm is the way to go. Tough to judge on these kids really, you never what you are going to get until a couple years down the line.

    Look at TJ Brodie. He was 5’9 when we drafted him, now he is 6’1.

    Barkov is playing against men and producing well. Monahan vs. Linholm. Not so sure.

  • seve927

    All of this is getting me way too excited, when I see Barkov taken by Carolina right in front of us it’ll hurt all the more. I would be so rattled to see Edmonton trade up to 5. They definately have the pieces. If they took Barkov I would lose my mind.

  • Shoestring

    I would like to see them trade for the 4th pick but retain the 6th. Move the later 2 picks in the first and prospects/roster players for the 4 spot. Draft Barkov then at 6 draft Monahan/Lindholm or trade the 6th pick down a spot or two if there is another guy they like and can pick up an asset in the process. But Really 2 picks in the top 6 would be amazing.I am curious to know what trading for a guy to buyout from a poor team would net?

    • Christian Roatis

      It’s certainly within the realm of possibility even more so because Nichuskin will go top 5, and if a team likes Lindholm enough to go top 5 than we’re golden. Hello Barkov. Also Carolina probably wants a D so they might take Ristolainen.

  • T&A4Flames

    There is very little chance Barkov drops to us ….. Christmas come early if he does …… Kent …. if u read this can u do an article on Monahan vs Lindholm and what we can expect from each ….. and who your pick would be ? Many thanks !

      • EugeneV

        Many thanks Kent …. love the site and the work u do. The more I read and hear, the more I get confused on the Lindholm versus Monahan debate. I had basically concluded that Lindholm was close to Barkov and a tick above Monahan ….. then heard that Mctavish said there are 3 great centers in the draft this year Mckinnon, Barkov, and Monahan ??????

        Gotta be careful of smoke screens this time of year, but seems confusing ….. I am assuming it will come down to Monahan or Lindholm for us at #6.

    • MC Hockey

      I hope you are wrong (he does fall to us) and he turns out as good as the scouting reports. Love to have OTHER teams kicking themselves in 3 years for not taking him. Since Flames unlikely to be able to move up, let’s pray he is ignored. Start spreading rumors he has an injury, can we?

  • Tommynotsohuge

    Ok. How about both our later picks and Cammy for Tampa Bays pick, plus Lecavalier and his monstrous contract. They are a fairly cash strapped team, so I don’t see them buying Vinny out. Sure, they lose Druin or whoever, but they get a solid 2nd line center/winger. Two very good prospects and we get Vinny, and an elite prospect, plus we keep #6. Would you do that trade if you were Yzerman or Feaster?

    • T&A4Flames

      Yzerman, yes. Feaster, HE’LL no.

      3rd overall would be so nice but giving up essentially 3 1st rounders (Cammi could bring one in) and taking back Lecavalier’s brutal contract is way more than an over payment. That contract would handcuff us for years.

  • Franko J

    Between Barkov, Lindholm, Monahan, and Nichuskin the difference is razor thin.
    Each player brings their own dynamic to the mix. To me, the most important aspect is not how fast a guy can skate, or their Corsi rating, or how they drive possession, IMO it is how they will handle the pressure of being the possible face of this franchise and the scrutiny they will have to endure from the fans and media alike when the team struggles. The question is: who is the one player who is going to thrive or take a dive?

    No matter if this team moves up to fourth and takes Barkov or stays at six and selects someone else, it is vitally imperative that the Flames get this draft right. Most importantly who they choose with their first pick must have a pivotal impact in regards to this team getting back into the playoffs and back to respectability.

    With players like Baertschi, Brodie, Backlund beginning to form a new core and indentity for the Flames, this draft is a major step in the right direction to re-tooling of this team. For years Flames management neglected to properly draft and develop players to help Iggy and Kipper and by the start of this past season we saw firsthand what happens when a team is unsuccessful in drafting first round talent.

    All I hope is the Flames come to the draft in NJ with a game plan and really lock down their nine selections. With this draft not only is there solid gold picks in the top 20 who will make an impact in the league, but even outside of the first round, they are a number of players (hidden gems) who will be difference makers.

  • Tommynotsohuge

    @ Franko J

    Amen to that. We have 3 picks in a draft class that potentially has a boatload of future NHLer’s. Let’s not panic here. We can’t worry about what other teams are taking, or if Shelbyville is going to move up, etc.

    To me, our three first rounders are untouchable. There will be a franchise player available at the six slot. It’s a matter of picking right.

    I am all for trying to get another first rounder, however. I’m all in favor of moving a Granlund, or an Arnold, as well as a Gio or Glenx, if by taking a bad salary back we can land another pick. What about a team like Buffalo? They have two first rounders…..

    If we can’t add another pick without overpaying, stay the course. Settle into your chairs in New Jersey and damn well get this right.

    • EugeneV

      Totally agree! The task should be upgrading while maintaining 3 1st round picks or acquiring additional 1st rounders. I think Feasty should target Minny to get their 1st & we take a salary dump(Heatley) from them & offer up Granlund, Brossoit & our 3rd rounder. I think we are the deepest with Goalie prospects, so giving up Brossoit & Granlund to play with his brother could be enough to pry that 1st with a salary dump of 7.5mill for 1 more year. The 3rd rounder we throw in is an overpayment to sweeten the pot.

  • I think Feaster needs to do whatever it takes to get us another first. Preferrably in the top 4. I think our last two picks and Camalleri could get us another first easily. It would have to be in the top 5 though. If we were just to make Camalleri available do you think he could net us a first at all ? Just curious

    • I don’t think that Camalleri will have any trade value until the trade deadline.

      Austin what would you trade for a 31 year old over payed(cap hit of 6 million, salary 7 million) 5 foot 9 scorer that needs other to drive play and is signed for 1 year? Because that is what Camalleri is starting next season.

      • T&A4Flames

        Scoring is always at a premium. 6mil is a lot but if CGY retains some of it, a 30 goal scorer is attractive to a lot of teams. He would get a 1st. CLB may give up 1 f their 3 to get a scorer like Cammi. I still think a scorer is what CAR and NSH would like as well. I’m not saying they give up top 5 for Cammi, even at, say, 4mil, but it might be a start.

        • T&A4Flames

          See Cammalleri isn’t as unattractive as you make him sound. I think If we gave up Cammalleri, and our late two firsts and third for their #3 and Lecavalier they’d do it. Cammy and Lecavalier are at about the same level. Cammaleri’s contract is up after this year and he is cheaper too. If Murray Edwards really wants to rebuild, then he should realize that the only way to do that is through the draft since we don’t have Crosbys and Malkins lying around to attract UFAs. Lecavalier will still be a useful player for a few more years than we can buy him out. Getting Drouin and Lindholm would be worth it in my eyes. Two franchise players.

          • No way, no how Cammi gets a 1st in 2013, even eating salary, let alone a top 4 pick. He may get us a 1st at the TDL if he’s healthy & has scored 20 goals at that point. Vinny is a big no to that contract. But there is some that think that they want to keep Vinny, they just don’t want that contract & if they buyout the contract, they cant resign him. Maybe we can trade for Vinny, buy him out & then he can resign in Tampa for cheap like borscht. Wonder what that would be worth to Tampa.

          • Rockmorton65

            The CBA just states that the team, who the player belongs to(in this case, if he were traded to Calgary)buys out that player, they cannot resign him for 1 year. So if the Flames trade for him, buy him out Lecalvier could sign with any other of the 29 teams. That much $$$ has to be worth something significant. From a hockey stand point, that would be a terrible move by Tampa to give up what that kind of transaction would cost to have a player retire at a reduced cap hit.

    • supra steve

      A lot of teams are in cap jail this summer, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be interested in adding Cammi at this time (unless you took back a bad contract). I think the JBow and Iggy deals demonstrated how highly other teams are valuing their first rounders this year. Detroit didn’t want to give their’s up, and Boston’s was conditional (at least initially, and perhaps in the final offer as well?). To get into the top five of the first…we would probably have to gut our current prospect ranks (Sven, Gaudreau, Gillies, etc.). Consider yourself lucky to have the picks we have this summer, don’t be greedy.

  • Would you trade a future franchise player for 2 late firsts and Cammy?

    I wouldn’t. I HIGHLY doubt any GM in their right mind does that. If that is available to Feaster he needs to take it all day long. None of the GMs above our pick would be stupid enough though.

  • icedawg_42

    I think that as far as top 10, we have what we have. I don’t believe it’s possible to crack the top 5 under any real circumstances this year, unless you package #6 AND a high end prospect. You’re definitely not dumping salary to do it (Cammi) Even then, IMO there’s NO WAY you crack the top 3, which to me makes it not worth it.

    I also do not believe a situation arises where Barkov is available at 6, so in that case, for my money Lindholm slightly edges out Monahan. I’m really expecting to walk away with Lindholm (if he’s available) – I’m hoping they do NOT take the risk on Nichushkin

    • icedawg_42

      Unfortunately I think you are right about not being able to trade up…. This weekend I was having this same debate with some buddies. The question was asked if we would trade all 3 of our picks for #3. So swap #6 AND StL AND Pit for #3. We all quickly shot that idea down quickly, calling it a massive overpay.

      But then we flipped the tables and put ourselves into one of the top 3 spots. And then it felt like a massive UNDERpay to turn Drouin or McKinnon into a 6th & two late picks that really are just flips of a coin hoping for a 2nd or 3rd line player in 4-5 years. There is no way I’d pass on one of the top 3 studs for 6th + any number of draft picks. Would you rather have 3 Matt Stajans or 1 Steve Stamkos….

      Interesting how it turns from a massive overpay into a no-way rip off move depending on which end of a trade down/up you are on.

      • icedawg_42

        You also cant ignore each teams current situation as well. A team like Calgary where some of our top 10 prospects wouldnt make other teams top 20, cant afford to orphan a player like Mckinnon on a team with no depth. An excellent time for Flames to really really fasttract replacing some quality depth in our system. If we were that worried & willing to pay that kind of price about having that top 3 pick we would have played Irving & Taylor in those last 10 games.

        • icedawg_42

          So you are suggesting mgmt didn’t even want a top 3 pick? They were like “meh, who needs a superstar, we don’t have any depth. No thanks McKinnon. Lets win some meaningless games down the stretch and get the 6th pick, cause who needs a superstar! What we really need is 3 Matt Stajan replacement level players. Booya.”

          That’s ridiculous…

          • supra steve

            So let me get this straight. You would be willing to part with the 6th, 22nd & 29th & if necessary Sven, to move up 3 or 4 spots in the draft based on potential perceived by everyone & gut any depth in your system for that 1 “franchise” player. So you instantly think if we kept our 3 1st round picks, they will all turn out to be Matt Stajans. I will never let anyone by the name of Kurt go shopping with my credit card, that’s for sure. In fact, put the shoe on the other foot, if Barkov or Nichushkin fell to us in 6th and a team like Philly or Buffalo were desperate for that player & wanted our pick, what would you ask for back? In Philly’s case I would want Couturier & their #11 & in Buffalo’s case I would ask for Myers & their 8th. Huge price to pay, & that’s just for the 6th pick. Cant imagine what 4th on to 1st would cost. Sometimes you have to just say you cant afford it.

      • supra steve

        So you’re saying that Stajan + Cammi + Pitt first rounder won’t move us up to a top 3 selection in the 2013 draft? No fair, you aren’t supposed to use reason when considering trade options. Thanks for raining on the parade that a lot of FN posters are attending.

        So many are saying that they want 2 picks in the top 6….well who the hell doesn’t. The Flames are fortunate to have 3 firsts in a deep draft year that is expected to produce a lot of NHL contributors, let’s not get greedy here. Do the homework and take the picks, or move up/down a few spots if appropriate and the price is right. But to think that we can move into the top 5 without giving up #6 and Sven, and probably more is just fantasy. Now, I’m not saying that there is no way they should do that, but the deciding factor has to be the Flame’s final draft list and how highly they value each player. It’s entirely possible that they get a guy from their top 3-5 with that #6 pick.

        Having said that, I fully expect these “fantasy” trade scenarios to be posted right up until draft day cause at this point what else have we got?

        • icedawg_42

          I agree the fantasy scenarios are fun – so sure, why not. In reality though, I think we’ll all be fairly jazzed if the Flames come away with Monahan or Lindholm no?

          • supra steve

            Either of those 2 would be fine, if they are the highest player available on the Flames final list. I’m also comfortable with them taking the Russian or the Finn-Russian or whoever is that best player available on their list. As long as they do their homework and get to know as much as they can about these kids and are comfortable with their selection, then I have to say their best guess is more valid then mine (given the limits of my info).

  • icedawg_42

    Very interesting tweet from Bob McKenzie this morning (Talking about scouts assessments of top prospects post Memorial Cup)

    Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie Some scouts have Drouin ahead of MacKinnon, and vice vera obviously, and I know at least one who has Aleksander Barkov ahead of both of them