Aleksander Barkov enjoyed a tremendous, record-setting season with the Florida Panthers and the centre is such a valuable commodity that his team has declined his invitation to compete for Team Finland at the upcoming 2019 IIHF World Championship.
“[Barkov] played heavy minutes and persevered through nagging injuries last season and we’ve determined that it’s essential for him to use this summer to heal,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon stated Wednesday in a team-issued press release.
The Panthers captain set a new franchise record with 96 points this past season and, despite those nagging injuries Tallon mentioned, played in all 82 games. His 22:21 of ice-time per game ranked fourth among forwards behind only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Kane.
The Panthers – a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 1996 – are looking for a fresh start in 2019-20. The first step towards this was when Tallon hired Joel Quenneville and the new head coach mentioned at the time that he is looking forward to working with a player like Barkov.
“You got a kid like Barkov who’s one of those guys that can be a big difference maker and I’m looking forward to the chance to be a part of working with him,” Quenneville said during a recent appearance on Hockey Central at Noon. “Special players can really enhance your program.”
Barkov has represented Finland many times over the years, including twice at the annual world championship tournament where he has 16 points in 17 total games.
This year’s tournament takes place from May 10-26 in Bratislava and Košice in Slovakia.