First Look: Justin Barron

This is the third in a series of in-depth profiles covering each member of the Colorado Avalanche 2020 draft class. The entire series can be found HERE.

The crown jewel of the Colorado Avalanche 2020 draft class is their 25th overall selection in right shot defenseman Justin Barron who stands at 6’2 and 195 lbs. While he had fallen in some draft rankings, NHL Central Scouting had the Canadian ranked 16th among North American skaters and TSN’s Bob McKenzie had Barron pegged on the nose at 25th on his list. Skating is his calling card and Barron joins a group of very mobile defensemen who can move the puck well in the Avalanche organization. He may not be as dynamic as his fourth overall counterparts, Barron projects to be an asset in the transition game with good passing ability, shot generation in the offensive zone and ability to use his large frame in the defensive zone.

Barron is now in his fourth season with the Halifax Mooseheads. He was drafted 13th overall in the QMJHL draft but there was thought he would take the college route as his brother Morgan, now with the New York Rangers organization, did. When his hometown team took him off the board, however, that was a good enough situation to get Barron to commit to major junior and sign with Halifax.

It could be described as destiny for Barron to join the fold in Colorado with numerous non-coincidental connections. The Nova Scotia crew not only includes the likes of NHL contracted staples such as Shane Bowers, Ryan Graves and Nathan MacKinnon but also prospect Matt Stienburg who was Morgan’s roommate at Cornell and a long time friend and teammate in minor hockey of Justin. Also Alex Newhook who is also from Atlantic Canada in Newfoundland is in the mix and familiar with the group.

The connections just don’t end in Atlantic Canada as Barron has spent a lot of time playing with another Avalanche (former) prospect in Bowen Byram. They were teammates and often partners at the 2018 Ivan Hlinka where they won a gold medal together for their country (as well as with fellow prospect Sasha Mutala), the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase and the just completed 2021 World Junior Championship while earning a silver medal for team Canada.

One final connection, though not as teammates, was when Halifax were the 2019 Memorial Cup hosts who lost to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Alex Beaucage in both the tournament and in the QMJHL finals, Avalanche scouts got a long look at these two eventual draft selections playing against each other. While he only added an assist in that Memorial Cup over four games Barron was a key contributor in helping Halifax in the playoffs with 13 points in 23 games following a breakout regular season of 41 points in 68 games.

Subsequently in the 2019-20 season and Barron was limited to just 34 games due to a blood clot issue which was discovered in November of 2019 and then he had to sit out several months while on blood thinners. When he was ready to return it was right before the COVID-19 shutdown of the season and Barron only played seven games in the spring resulting in an amassed total of 19 points over the campaign. The team in Halifax was significantly weaker for that year due to going all-in the previous year which contributed to some of the difficulties Barron encountered as well.

Fast forward to this season Barron missed the delayed start of the 2020-21 campaign in the fall due to finally undergoing the procedure on his shoulder to fix the blood clot issue for good. Yet he still managed to get in eight QMJHL games for Halifax before departing for Hockey Canada’s camp in November. As the newly appointed captain Barron is the number one defenseman for the rebuilding club where he scored seven points including a goal in the fall portion of the schedule.

As a surprise to some Barron was included on Canada’s silver medal winning roster at the just completed 2021 World Junior Championship. Not only was he part of the team but solidified a third pairing role with just under an average of 15 minutes time on ice per game in each of the seven games he participated in. Barron chipped in two assists in the round-robin portion as well with nine shots on goal. It was a look at his likely role in professional hockey and he did well with puck moving and shot generation but highlighted some work he still needs in the defensive zone.

Since his return from the tournament and subsequent resumption of the QMJHL season in late January Barron looks like he picked up right where he left off with some additional confidence as well. He scored five points with 14 shots on goal in his first three games and looks ready to move on to the next challenge of professional hockey.

As a November, 2001 birthdate Barron is eligible to join the AHL in just one year since he will have completed four QMJHL seasons at the conclusion of the current one. Despite missing so much time with the blood clot and COVID-19 related cancellations Barron has still played a grand total of 198 career games including playoffs in major junior through his four seasons with more to come to close out the year.

With such a quick timeline to professional hockey begs the question of what is the planned path for him toward making the Avalanche roster. Assuming he does transition to pro hockey in the fall, when one AHL season is under his belt and if he gets regular playing time there Barron should look to begin impacting the NHL club in 2022-23 with call-ups and then work to transition to a full-time role the following year. The other option would be an overage year back for a fifth season in the QMJHL in 2021-22 just to avoid signing him or starting the clock but that is not ideal nor conducive to Barron’s development. The path should become clearer when future ELC signings are eligible beginning March first.

queenjk

Aka tigervixxxen, prospect junkie.

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