Jussi Jokinen and Aleksander Barkov got to know one another while helping Finland capture bronze at the 2014 Olympics.
Now the duo hope to bring their chemistry formed in Russia to Florida.
Jokinen signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Panthers on July 1 after spending last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He will really help Barkov,” general manager Dale Tallon told the Panthers’ website last month. “He’s got a lot of class. He’s a real pro, good skills, can score. He’s got great hockey sense and he really will help Barkov on and off the ice.”
According to Tallon, he didn’t have to do much selling to lure Jokinen, 31, to the Sunshine State.
“He wanted to play here because of Barkov and all the younger players that we have in our system,” said Tallon. “He did his homework. He knew our team inside and out. Was excited to get an opportunity to play with Barkov.
“Getting to know him at the Olympics this year was a big plus.”
Barkov, the Panthers’ first round selection in 2013, was limited to just 54 games last season after suffering a knee injury during the Olympics. Barkov, who turns 19 next month, scored eight goals and 24 points in his rookie season.
Adding Jokinen will certainly help Barkov take another step in his second year.
“Everyone saw last season how great player Barkov is and will be,” Jokinen told the Panthers’ site last week. “I sat next to him at the Winter Olympics and got to know him little better. I played last year a lot with (Evgeni) Malkin and I see lots of similarities with Barkov and Malkin. Hopefully we have chance to play together and produce.”
Jokinen isn’t the only one who is excited. Barkov told the Panthers last week that Florida’s addition of Jokinen was a “dream come true”.
Despite ownership’s concern over the team’s future in Florida, Jokinen is confident.
“I have lots of faith in the new ownership group, Dale Tallon and the coaching staff,” Jokinen said. “I am confident that this team is going to right direction. To have young guys like Barkov, (Jonathan) Huberdeau, (Aaron) Ekblad, (Erik) Gudbranson, (Nick) Bjugstad and others was a big factor too. They have huge potential to be star players in this league.”
Tallon wouldn’t confirm that Jokinen and Barkov would play on the same line saying line combinations were in coach Gerard Gallant’s hands, but given their history, one would have to believe the pair will reunite at some point this season.