For the first time this season, the first and second overall selections from this year’s NHL Draft are matched up against each other.
Nathan MacKinnon, selected first overall, and the Colorado Avalanche host Aleksander Barkov, the second overall pick, and the Florida Panthers tonight.
Both players sit in the Top 10 for rookie scoring so far. MacKinnon has three goals and 12 points, while Barkov has four goals and eight points with the re-building Panthers.
“Obviously there’s some ups and downs every season, especially with this season,” MacKinnon told NHL.com.
“But it’s gone pretty smooth. It’s been the best couple months of my life so far. I love playing in the NHL. I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now.”
Tonight’s match-up between MacKinnon and Barkov adds an interesting storyline to a game that doesn’t necessarily boast much in the way of any kind of rivalry.
Their respective teams, aside from being in different conferences, have gone in opposite directions in the standings.
The Avalanche, despite two straight losses, sit second in the Central Division with a 14-4-0 record, two points back of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Panthers are seventh in the Atlantic, with only four wins in 20 games. But the early returns on Barkov seem to be mostly positive, and expectations for his future are high.
“We all knew he’s going to be one of the top players coming from Finland,” Ducks forward Teemu Selanne recently told the Sun Sentinel.
“It’s amazing how these young guys can adjust like this and be ready to play in the NHL.”