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PANTHERS ON OFFENSIVE: Florida Takes C Sasha Barkov with Second Pick in NHL Draft

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NEWARK, N.J. -- The Panthers had a chance to continue to improve their defensive stock with the second pick in the 2013 NHL Draft but instead addressed a more pressing need.

Despite having top-ranked propect Seth Jones waiting for them, the Panthers picked Finnish center Sasha Barkov on Sunday afternoon.

Barkov, born in Finland to Russian parents, becomes the second-highest draft pick in Panthers history. Florida selected Ed Jovanovski with the top pick in 1994.

The Panthers apparently told Barkov they were very interested in taking him during their interview Saturday afternoon in New York City. The Panthers are expecting Barkov to compete for a center job during training camp.

"I want to play in the NHL and this is my chance,'' Barkov said shortly after the selection. "I have improved my game. I think I will [leave Finland] and play in Florida. I will be ready.''

Tampa Bay didn't pick Jones, either, and went with Jonathan Drouin with the third selection. Jones landed with Nashville and the fourth pick.

Florida GM Dale Tallon will meet with the media following the Panthers' first pick in the second round.

Barkov injured his shoulder in March but should be ready to go for training camp.

The top-rated European skater, Barkov turned pro at the age of 16 and has played the past two seasons in the Finnish elite league for Tappara.

When the Panthers played a preseason game against Tappara in Finland in 2009, Barkov's father Alexander was an assistant coach for the Tampere team. Florida ended up losing that exhibition 4-3 in a shootout.

Barkov, who attended the game, admits he rooted against the Panthers then -- but is now a big fan.

"I've always liked the Florida Panthers,'' Barkov said.

PANTHERS ON OFFENSIVE: Florida Takes C Sasha Barkov with Second Pick in NHL Draft

PANTHERS ON OFFENSIVE: Florida Takes C Sasha Barkov with Second Pick in NHL Draft

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I thought his first name is Aleksander, not Sasha...am I missing something?

When I was at the arena today, I heard Jovo talking about being ready for training camp. Many thought (and still think) he is ready to retire.

3 person draft and the panthers choose the 4th best player. When did mike Keenan take over again.

Barkov is the franchise center in waiting.

Sasha is the Russian nickname for Alexander...kinda like the Robert and Bob of Russia!

Alex, showing you're not very knowledgeable about the draft. If you read anything on Hockey News, NHL.com, NHL network, even the 2 local papers, you would know that the top 4 players in the draft were very close, MacKinnon being the best by a nose. If you listened to the draft you would also know that. The reason Barkov was picked second was size. He's 6'3" 205, and a scored. Historically defensemen take a few years to truly be NHL ready, Barkov will be ready this season and probably be a 20 goal scorer.

He isn't 18 until September...doubt he will stick with the big club this year.

Tallon says he will.

He has played with men in the first league in Finland for two years already making everyone around him better. Even his well known veteran linemate Ville Nieminen (has played in the NHL) who scored a record 50 points (for him) this season, is singing his praise crediting him for his best season ever.
This kid is something special and he will be on our club this fall guaranteed.
BTW it was funny hearing Tallon commenting on his shoulder surgery "with our other 10 surgeries this season he will fit right in".
Having done the same surgery and being much older than this kid I can tell you you come back stronger than before. It is nothing to worry about.

Just hoping this isn't another Michael Frolík, who excelled as an offensive player as youngster playing against adults in Czechoslovakia, or another Jack Skille, who was a Tallon first round (seventh overall) pick.

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