Shoulder can’t slow Barkov’s draft dream

Barkov - Mika Kylmaniemi

A season-ending shoulder injury isn’t exactly how top-ranked European prospect Aleksander Barkov envisioned wrapping up his draft season.

But that was his reality after, on his first shift of his game on March 27th, caught his arm between the glass and the boards and ending his march to the 2013 NHL Draft in disappointing fashion.

“Of course injury was big letdown,” Barkov said. “As a whole, the season went well. At beginning of the season I played well, then I had little bit worse period, which included youth championships. Then I played well again until my shoulder injury.”

Barkov, who underwent successful surgery three weeks ago, expects to be back at 100 per cent by the time next season rolls around.

“I don’t know how long it takes, but I think I am in full condition at beginning of the next season,” he said.

Where the 17-year-old ends up playing, though, remains to be seen.

Barkov, who finished second on Tappara in scoring with 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games, was noncommittal as to which side of the ocean he envisions himself skating on come September.

“I don’t want now speak about that,” Barkov said. “I have now this shoulder injury. I try to rehabilitate it and we will see it then, where I will play next season.”

There’s little doubt the 6-foot-2, 205-pound is qualified to play in the National Hockey League next season.

Boasting the size to compete on a nightly basis, Barkov has the offensive upside and the understanding of a two-way game that ensures he isn’t a liability when on the ice.

The latter is an aspect of his skills Barkov intently focused on improving.

“My two-way game developed very much for this season, because of my physique,” he said. “I did a lot of work at summer.”

That work came alongside former journeyman Ville Nieminen, who played 385 games over parts of seven seasons in the NHL.

Barkov credited Nieminen and Henrik Haapala, his linemates in Tampere, with helping him develop.

“Ville helped me a lot. We practiced together with him and Henrik Haapala. So we had good exercises. When season started, we played together.”

Both did an impressive job with the youngster. Barkov’s point total ranked him among the SM-liiga’s top-10 in scoring. Barkov doesn’t turn 18 until September 2nd.

While his age makes the accomplishment that much more impressive, Barkov downplayed his youth.

“I do not ever think that someone is older than me on the ice,” he said.” I try to play my own game and help my team to win games. It’s good achievement for me but its not enough.

“I have my goal in NHL.”

Where remains to be seen, but that isn’t of any concern to Barkov.

“For me it doesn’t matter which team drafts,” he said. “If someone drafts me then I try to do a lot of work, that some day I will play for the team and help to win something.”

When has already been determined. That journey starts on June 30th in New Jersey.

Which will ensure his year ends on a high note.

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