When Sasha Barkov was done doing his postgame interview with Bally Sports Florida, he walked into a silent Florida Panthers locker room.
No one paid the franchise’s newly-minted all-time leading scorer any mind.
Then they erupted in cheers.
Well deserved ones, at that.
“What a night for him,” Carter Verhaeghe explained. “We gave him the silent treatment at the start. I actually think he would prefer the silence over us cheering for him. We gave him a big roar and all congratulated him.
“It is a crazy accomplishment. He is the best player this franchise has ever had and it’s awesome.”
Barkov took sole possession of the Panthers’ all-time points record in the second period of Monday’s 5-2 win against the host Detroit Red Wings, his assist on a Gus Forsling goal pulling him out of a brief tie with longtime friend and linemate Jonathan Huberdeau.
”It is a huge honor, obviously, but I think after my career is when I will realize what it means,” Barkov told Katie Engelson afterward.
“But now, everything just happened so fast. We won the game, we’re in a playoff spot. So, I am not thinking about it that much. But it is a huge honor to play for this organization for such a long time. I am really happy.”
In 10 seasons with the Panthers, Barkov now has 238 goals and 614 points in 652 regular-season games.
There will be plenty more to come.
Barkov, 27, is in the first season of his franchise-record eight-year, $80 million contract extension he signed in 2021.
It was not lost on Barkov that when the Panthers made him the second overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, many expected Florida GM Dale Tallon to select highly-touted defenseman Seth Jones instead.
The team was secretly up for sale at the time of the draft and could not afford to make a competitive offer to keep No. 1 center Stephen Weiss — who ended up signing a big free agent deal with Detroit not long after that draft.
Dale Tallon liked Barkov’s physical tools and his performance playing in Finland’s top pro league as a teenager. At the prodding of head European scout Juri Kekolainen, drafted Barkov.
“He has a quiet confidence,’’ Tallon said at that draft. “He has size and skill and makes players around him better. He’s extremely smart and sees the ice very well. That’s what you need.’’
While Jones has gone on to a stellar career with Nashville, Columbus and Chicago, the Panthers have never had a single regret in selecting Barkov.
Barkov does not seem to have any regrets on how things have worked out either.
In 2018, the team named him their captain as he took over for Derek MacKenzie.
”I was a young guy, 17-years-old when I came here and didn’t really speak English and didn’t know much about America or Florida,” said Barkov, who became fast friends with Huberdeau at his first development camp with the Panthers in 2013.
”These 10 years, they flew by, pretty much. It feels like I got here yesterday or a week ago. It has felt like one long season. Of course, I have learned a lot about Florida, about this organization and it has been growing. We have a huge fanbase now and they have been very supportive.
“I have been lucky to call myself a Florida Panther the past 10 years and hopefully for many more.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Tied 1-1): Florida 4, Philadelphia 3 (Oct. 19); Philadelphia 4, Florida 3 (Oct. 27)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Philadelphia leads 56-37-6, 7 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Toronto at Florida, Thursday, 7 p.m.