TAMPA, Fla. -- For some Florida Panthers, a pair of future road games won't feel so foreign.
According to reports by TSN and Sportsnet, the Panthers will play two games in Finland against the Winnipeg Jets in November next season. The games would match up two of the premier Finnish stars in the league: Florida's Aleksander Barkov and Winnipeg's Patrik Laine.
Barkov, who made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, is from Tampere, Finland, and played there in the professional league before the Panthers selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. This season, the 22-year-old is on pace to shatter his career-best numbers in goals and assists. He entered the All-Star break with 15 goals and 28 assists.
Florida played two games in Helsinki against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, the first regular-season games ever played in Finland. The teams split the pair.
Barkov is the most prominent Finnish player on the Panthers, but they have more that could join him soon. Forward Henrik Haapala has spent most of the season with AHL affiliate Springfield, but briefly spent time in Florida in November. Goaltender Harri Sateri, pushed into action due to injuries to Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, is from Finland.
Plus, Florida also has forward prospect Henrik Borgstrom (Denver University) who could be in the NHL next season. Forward Aleksi Heponiemi has been lighting up the WHL for the Swift Current Broncos, but is unlikely to be in the NHL in November.
Laine followed a similar career path to Barkov, playing in Tampere before being selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft. The two players even play video games against each other and remain close friends.
This season, Ottawa and Colorado played regular-season games in Sweden. Next year, according to reports, Edmonton and New Jersey will play in Sweden. The Devils are also expected to play an exhibition in Switzerland; the Oilers, in Germany.
(c)2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.