After being a minimal trade deadline deal in the Spring of 2021, Alexander Barabanov has become a top-6 player for the San Jose Sharks. Last season, Barabanov set career highs in nearly every category with 15 goals and 32 assists while averaging over 18 minutes a night in 68 games. Barabanov did deal with some minor injury issues at the beginning and end of the season that took him out of games, but he was a staple in the Sharks’ forward department all year long.
Barabanov carved out a role on Logan Couture‘s line that really complemented each other. The Russian forward drove much of the transition on the line and allowed Couture to play more of his game around the net, where Couture can thrive. Barabanov’s vision and passing have really been what has made his game work since arriving in San Jose, but he can also combine that for a beautiful goal when called upon.
Logan Couture and Alexander Barabanov’s chemistry is evident for both players. Together they had a 51.07% corsi for at 5 on 5 (CF%) in nearly 700 minutes. Barabanov was at 46.89 CF% in nearly 300 minutes without Couture. The Captain was at 41.31 CF% in 350 minutes without Barabanov.
Alexander Barabanov also became an important part of the Sharks’ power play, notching 13 power play points, good for fifth on the team. Still, most of his work was done on even strength as Barabanov put up 34 points last season, tied with Timo Meier for fourth on the team. Barabanov has taken his opportunity on a depleted Sharks roster and made the most of it.
Where Does Barabanov Fit?
While Mike Grier was very active this offseason, adding several names to the Sharks forward group, like Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, and Filip Zadina. Alexander Barabanov will still be a fixture in the top six. The big question will be if he can contribute with a more crowded group and potentially less ice time as the Sharks have increased their depth among the forward. The additions of Hoffman, Duclair, Zadina, and projecting prospect William Eklund to make his way into the lineup will have Barabanov not seeing as many opportunities this year. This is not to say the Barabanov will go from 18 minutes a night to 12, but maybe not as many premiere opportunities such as on power play one.
On the flip side, having a better scoring threat on the Couture-Barabanov wing could allow for an increase in production despite maybe not getting as much ice time. With former 30 goal scorers, Duclair and Hoffman now added into the mix. Barabanov could see a legitimate shooting threat on his wing for the first time in his career. While both Hoffman and Duclair have question marks about their game, they should work very well with Barabanov’s craftiness and ability to find guys in open areas of the ice.
It’s hard to imagine Alexander Barabanov not being able to repeat his stats from last year and could be looking to join the 20-goal, 40-assist club if everything works out for the Sharks. The additions Grier made in the offseason should help Barabanov’s point production, as he still is one of their six best forwards. Finding the third guy on the Couture-Barabanov line should be one of Head Coach David Quinn’s most important problems to solve in training camp. If everything clicks quickly, the Sharks could solve some of the potential offensive issues that they will face in a world without Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier.
Alexander Barabanov enters this season in the last year of his 2-year $2.5 million AAV contract. He just turned 29 last month and will be looking to cash in on his productive seasons in San Jose. Will Mike Grier want to pay for a 30-year-old forward as prospects like Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, and Danil Gushchin start to become NHL players, or could Grier look to move Barabanov to a contender at the deadline who is looking to add a skilled player to their middle-six?
Bold Prediction: Alexander Barabanov is on track for a 60-point season but gets traded at the trade deadline for a second-round pick.