Aleksander Barkov may be young, but he’s already getting noticed for his sportsmanship.
The Lady Byng – given each year to the NHL player deemed to be “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability” – saw its three finalists announced on Saturday afternoon by the NHL.
Barkov was one of the three.
He is joined by Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, who was a finalist last year as well, and Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson. The winner of the award will be announced at the NHL Awards this June, held in Las Vegas.
So far, Kopitar is the only one of the three to be nominated for another award this year; for yet another season, he’s a finalist for the Selke Trophy (given to the league’s best defensive forward), as well. The trio all finished the year with strong scoring, though, coupled with low penalty minute tallies.
Should Kopitar win – something he hasn’t managed to do just yet in his career – he’ll be the first Kings player to win the award since 1994, when Wayne Gretzky took home the trophy. He’s up against another repeat nominee, though, as Eriksson was also on the trophy’s short list in 2011.
Barkov is the youngest of the three by a large stretch, as he’s only 21, but he had a career year already. The former second overall pick recorded 28 goals and 59 points in just 66 games for the Panthers, helping them into the postseason before putting up three points in his six playoff games. Should he take home the trophy, he’ll be the first Panthers player to do so since 2012 – although the last winner is hardly a surprise, as it was veteran Brian Campbell.