It's safe to say Aleksander Barkov is no longer "underrated".
The Panthers' captain officially shed that label on Friday evening after being announced as the winner of the 2021 Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL forward who excels most in the defensive aspects of the game.
Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Vegas' Mark Stone finished as runners-up for the award, which was voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Barkov, a first-time nominee, certainly put forth a Selke-worthy campaign this season. The 25-year-old racked up a 54.9% success rate in the face-off circle while driving play at a dazzling clip of 59.4% CF/60 at even strength, anchoring the Panthers' penalty kill in the process. Not to mention, Barkov achieved all of this while logging the ninth-most minutes of any NHL forward on a per-game basis, ultimately helping guide the Panthers to a franchise-best .704 points percentage in the regular season and a playoff birth, to boot.
The 2021 Selke class, despite being perhaps the most crowded in recent memory, was Barkov's all along. Despite 10 different players earning at least one first-place vote this year, Barkov won in a landslide, earning 62 first-place ballots to Patrice Bergeron's 15, who had the second-highest total.
Bergeron may have laid claim to the Selke in years past, having been nominated 10 consecutive years and winning it in three, 2021 may have brought forth a changing of the guard.