2023 NHL Draft: 4 Good Minutes With Top Prospect Colby Barlow

One moment, he’s playing Euchre on the team bus while listening to Morgan Wallen’s “Wonderin’ Bout the Wind.” The next moment, he’s helping his teammates with anything that they need no matter how big or small.

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For 17-year old Colby Barlow, that’s part of being the captain of the Owen Sound Attack. Under his leadership, the team is off to a solid 9-4-0 start. The Attack are in first place in the Midwest Division and in second place just one point behind the Windsor Spitfires for first in the OHL’s Western Conference.

Wait, did you say Barlow was the captain of the Attack at just 17? That is correct. That’s only part of what makes this top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft impressive.

Colby Barlow, OHL, Owen Sound Attack
Colby Barlow was named captain of the Owen Sound Attack at 17. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Welcome to our new series for the 2023 NHL Draft. This season, we will spend four good minutes with draft prospects in an effort to introduce them to you and getting to know them better. There will be some thoughtful questions but we’ll also mix in some fun too.

Barlow spoke to the Hockey Writers after his team defeated the Erie Otters 5-1 on Oct 21. He opened up on a few topics including handling pressure of the draft and being an OHL captain, who he models his game after and more.

Getting to Know Barlow

Folks on the outside will look at the stat line and immediately see what sticks out about Barlow’s game. His goal total is off the charts good for someone his age. As a 16-year old rookie, Barlow scored 30 goals and added 17 assists in 59 games. He also added five goals in seven hard-fought playoff games in 2022.

The Attack ultimately fell to the Flint Firebirds in that seven-game series. However this is where Barlow ultimately put himself on the map. Among his five goals, two were scored in that Game 7 helping to keep his team right in it until the very end. While it was a bitter end to a great season, there was a feeling of optimism surrounding the Attack and what they could become.

Fast forward to this new season. The Attack needed to make a decision about who would be their team captain. It’s not often that a true sophomore gets named to the highest honor of a team. But not only did it speak about Barlow on the ice, it spoke about him louder off the ice.

When the time came for the announcement, Barlow said he was caught by surprise.

“I knew I was a contender for it. I didn’t know I was getting it,” Barlow said. “It was a surprise. It was a massive honor. It’s crazy. I’m pretty speechless. It’s a massive honor especially with this group of guys. I have great support. They help me every night and I help them every night so it’s a great team and we’re a tight group.”

Pressure, Pressure

Of course being named the captain comes with its share of responsibilities. Now add that to the pressure of playing during your draft year and you have someone in Barlow who is managing multiple situations not only for himself but for his teammates. When push comes to shove, he handles the pressure the same way he always does.

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“By just keeping it simple and taking it day-by-day, making sure I wake up with a positive mindset,” Barlow said of the pressure. “Just making sure I’m getting better every single day and helping the team win. That’s my main goal. I’ve dedicated myself to this team and working hard and trying to win with them.

“I lead by example on and off the ice. By all means I’m not perfect. They hold me accountable too which is a good thing about this team. We just help each other every single night.”

More Than Just His Shot

Being a 30-goal scorer at just age 16 is nothing short of impressive. Barlow’s already got seven goals in 10 games this season to start out his draft season strong. As you can imagine, he’s always working to perfect his shot.

“I work on it after every single practice. I stay out with (goalie Nick Chenard) and some of the boys. We fire pucks. We make sure we hit our spots and getting them into different areas, just shooting more pucks.”

When Barlow isn’t scoring, he’s taking a lot of pride in his defense. In his words, scoring is not the most important thing he worries about in his game. Let him explain.

“I’m a 200-foot power forward. I take care of my own endzone before even thinking about offense. Taking care of my zone is the most important thing on the ice right now.”

Colby Barlow, OHL, Owen Sound Attack
Barlow’s shot stands out, but his defense is more important to him. (Photo credit: OHL)

Although he models his game after both Auston Matthews for his shot and John Tavares for his work around the net, Barlow is usually found in the middle of the play no matter where it is on the ice. He plays every important situation and is especially active turning defense into offense.

In that 5-1 win over the Otters, if you came to see him scoring goals, you may have left feeling a little empty. But he was one of the best players on the ice all night. He finished with a primary assist, but it was his impact on and off the puck that was clearly noticeable. He uses his skating to create offense and play pressure defense. He has no issue laying the body when needed. Then when they need to generate offense, he’s usually carrying the puck or setting himself and his teammates up for success.

Barlow is a Top Prospect

Barlow is a good prospect because of his goal scoring knack alone. But he elevates to a top prospect because of his leadership qualities and the commitment he makes to playing as hard defensively. He is not mentioned in the same breathe as Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov or Adam Fantilli, but he’s not far behind them.

Barlow is on pace to challenge for 40 goals this season. Teams who miss out on the very top will love adding a player the caliber of Barlow to their team. One last scouting thought for you to consider. While the Attack were protecting their lead against the Otters, who was out there laying out his body and blocking shots? It was Barlow. He took a puck in a bad part of the skate but shook it off and continued to play hard defense until the whistle.

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Barlow checks off all the boxes. He has the respect of his teammates and coaches. And he’s a really good hockey player. Most in the industry see Barlow as a solid lottery pick. Don’t be surprised if he cracks the top-10 in Nashville in 2023. The hype is only going to get bigger given everything he brings to the table and the attitude he has towards it. Let him tell you the best piece of advice he’s ever received.

“Don’t listen to what people think about you. Just take it day by day. Be who you are and ride like that.” Barlow will be riding high all the way to the NHL Draft and beyond.