It was a long shot anyway, but Aleksander Barkov definitely won’t be playing in his third straight World Junior Hockey Championship.
Barkov, who represented Finland in the last two tourneys, will not be released from the Florida Panthers to play in this year’s event, GM Dale Tallon told the Miami Herald on Wednesday.
“There’s no way he’s going anywhere but here,” Tallon said. “We have to let him grow. He’s a big part of our future and our present.”
Barkov, 18, has 10 points through 28 games this year for Florida and sits fourth among all rookie forwards in TOI per game (16:55). The No. 2 overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft also sits first among all first-year players in faceoffs taken (403) and second in winning percentage (50.6).
Barkov isn’t the only Finnish NHLer eligible for this year’s tournament. Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta could go, but that seems extremely unlikely given he’s a regular fixture on the Pens’ blueline.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo’s first-round choice at the ’13 NHL Entry Draft, is also eligible. He’s currently playing for AHL Rochester and dealing with an injury, though.