The Nashville Predators have jumped into the mix of teams that say they’re willing to entertain trade offers. While many hockey fans are familiar with the “Big Three” of the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, that 4th pick could net Alexander Barkov. Could Buffalo be targeting the Fin Phenom? Alexander Barkov is featured in Jeremy White's next Hockey Prospect Watch.
There are plenty of scouts who suggest that there are five or seven game-changing players available in this draft. Alexander Barkov is one sitting just outside that royalty of three that could prove to be quite a prize.
Ranked as the #1 European skater, Barkov has a big frame at 6’2’’ 2-5 pounds. A center with elite skill, the read on Sasha (as he’s known), is one of a player who could help a team all over the ice.
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 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.
Pronman also mentions that Barkov’s “Hockey IQ” is elite. When looking at prospects I’m running them through the Ron Rolston-ator. I realize that Rolston isn’t exactly making the call on draft day, but we all get the feeling that the things that he looks for in a player mirror the things that the Sabres would seek. Simple leap right? He’s the coach.
Barkov has been very successful in Finland’s top league, and at a very young age. His 47 points in 51 games is out-of-this-world good for a 17 year old. He’s doing things on a level that matches other NHL superstars. (I love this link...and the birthday stuff is all Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Good stuff, in my opinion).
Perhaps most important is the connection to the Buffalo Sabres. Barkov has played at the WJC for Finland, along with former first round pick Joel Armia. Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine said last week that the Sabres would certainly take chemistry into account when looking at any player. The Sabres have characteristically shied away from drafting Russians, but they haven’t had the same reluctance when it comes to Fins. The Finnish league is a top-tier league and a good indicator for a potential prospect. While the Sabres have monitored Armia’s growth, they’ve no doubt seen plenty of Barkov.
Buffalo wants to move up. Nashville is open to moving down. Sasha Barkov hangs in the balance.