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Barkov likens McDavid to Gretzky: Most talented player I've ever seen

Elsa / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov had the unenviable task of going head-to-head with Connor McDavid throughout the Stanley Cup Final, and after coming out on top in Monday's Game 7, he had nothing but praise for the Edmonton Oilers phenom.

"He's probably the most talented hockey player I've ever seen in my life," Barkov said after winning his first championship, per's Dan Rosen. "Obviously, I never played against (Wayne) Gretzky, but I can imagine he's something similar."

McDavid, who became the sixth player in league history to win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP despite losing the final, was in pursuit of Gretzky throughout the postseason. McDavid usurped the Great One's all-time playoff assist benchmark (31) and fell five points short of matching the scoring record (47). The 27-year-old became only the third player, joining Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, to eclipse 40 points in a single playoff.

Barkov, who won the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward, found a way to neutralize McDavid throughout the final. The Oilers star didn't record a point in Games 6 and 7 after back-to-back four-point performances. In the 43:40 the captains shared at five-on-five throughout the series, the Panthers surrendered a single goal, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Barkov was a Conn Smythe candidate himself after leading the Panthers in playoff scoring with 22 points in 24 games. He shut down some of the league's top offensive talents throughout Florida's run, including Nikita Kucherov, David Pastrnak, and Artemi Panarin.

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