Aleksander Barkov was rescued from the ice following a knee-on–knee hit by Scott Mayfield, Islanders forward, during a 6-1 win against them on Nov. 16. Andrew Brunette, interim head coach, said that he was considered a good player. week-to-week and will not need surgery. We don’t yet know how many weeks that will be, and it will be extremely difficult for the Florida Panthers to replace someone of Barkov’s caliber; through 15 games, he leads the team in points with 17 and goals with nine. He is also the leader in power-play goals for a unit that struggled terribly this season, with two.
Florida’s incredible center depth is something to be proud of. They have been clutch throughout the season, including a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Nov. 6, which Barkov has missed. Many candidates could still be a good backup for Barkov if he isn’t there.
What about a Finnish two-way centre? It’s almost as if Barkov was never injured. He was.Drafted 12th overall last year, Anton Lundell has played as if he’s been in the NHL his entire career. He has seven points in 14 games, including four assists and three goals against the Hurricanes.
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In addition, Lundell has been given a lot of responsibility this season playing on the top penalty kill unit, where he’s excelled, helping the team to rank 17th in the league when down a man. His style is extremely similar to Barkov’s, and he’s been centering two similar talents in Frank Vatrano and Sam Reinhart. Lundell should be considered for the top job.
In the same Nov. 6 game against Carolina, Eetu Luostarinen was slotted into the top line between Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair in Barkov’s absence. Eetu Luostarinen now knows the responsibilities of being top-line center.
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Traded to the Hurricanes for a Hurricanes swarm. Vincent Trocheck featured in Feb. 2020, Luostarinen has played at a high level. Through 15 games, he’s scored six goals, including three game-winners. He also scored an overtime win against the Washington Capitals in Nov. 4. Since then, he’s been a plug-in on Florida’s fourth line thanks to his speed and shot. He is also a skilled goal-scorer and has played on the top-line before, so he could fill in the center of the top-line.
Acquired last season at the trade deadline, Sam Bennett completely turned his career around after a rough start with the Calgary Flames. In his first 10 games, Bennett had 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists), and was awarded a new contract. $4.425 millions per year for four years.
This season has been no exception. He has 10 points through 14 games (six goals and four assists) and this fresh start has made a huge difference in his career. He’s also been playing on an elite line that features Jonathan Huberdeau and Owen Tippett, or, in certain circumstances, he might play on a good line featuring Huberdeau and Duclair. He could be a major success if he is able to slot into the top line, or if he mixes one up.
Panthers Have the Talent to Step up in Barkov’s Absence
The team has proven that they can win even though Barkov was out for a while. With a 13-2-3 record, 29 points and a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division, the Panthers are now second in the league. While the season is still young and there are only 29 points, the Panthers have been playing at a historic pace at home, with a perfect 100-0 record. With their depth, the Panthers are capable of doing anything.
Joey, my name is I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward reading your articles!