As one of the youngest prospects in this year's draft, Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov is intriguing for many reasons, and probably out of the Flames' reach at sixth overall.
Barkov is predicted to be snapped up immediately after the likes of Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. He was selected second overall by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in 2012 but played for Tappara of the Finnish SM-Liiga instead, where he scored 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games. For Finland at the World Juniors, Barkov scored three times and added four assists in six games.
At 6"2 and 205 lbs., Barkov is no shrinking violet either. His size and his ability to protect the puck and out-muscle his opponents have propelled him up the rankings. His improvement from just seven goals and 16 points in 32 games in 2011-12 to scoring at almost a point-per-game pace in 53 games in 2012-13 at just 17 years of age has also drawn the attention of scouts, who say that his size and offensive talents make up for what he lacks in another area of his game.
From Elite Prospects:
"...Barkov has an excellent offensive game and good size. His very good passing and puckhandling combined with great hands and hockey sense make him a big offensive threat. He plays with high confidence and never seems to be under pressure. Barkov is a creative with a very solid overall package and the skill set to compensate for his below-average skating..."
Observers have also been impressed with Barkov's defensive game (via Last Word on Sports):
Defensively, Barkov is well developped, understanding his responsibility as a centre and getting back deep to help defencemen. He again uses his size to his advantage along the boards and in containing his opponents to the outside. He understands the play, and cuts down passing and shooting lanes effectively. His game is certainly very well rounded.
According to Corey Pronman, Barkov logged an average of 20 minutes per game in SM-Liiga play, which he says is unusual for a player his age, and indicative of his skill.
Aside from his skating, Barkov's other weakness is his surgically repaired shoulder. Barkov underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder in April, and has been rehabbing it ever since. Barkov did not participate in the draft combine because of his shoulder, but he said at the end of May that he expected to start skating in about a week, perhaps with former Flame Ville Nieminen, whom he has been practicing and playing with in Tappara.
While the Flames will likely miss out on Barkov, he no doubt fits the bill for what they will likely be looking for with their sixth overall pick. A defensively competent top-line centre with good size and skill is precisely what has eluded them in the draft for so long, and now that they possess the highest pick they've had since 2003, Feaster and Co. should be very keen to secure exactly that type of player. Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm are the other players that are more likely to fall into the Flames' hands at number six that also fit Barkov's mould.