Avalanche Add to Defensive Prospect Depth With Latest 1st-Round Pick

After an earlier than anticipated exit from the 2020 postseason, the Avalanche switched their focus to the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and who to select with their 25th overall selection.

Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide – Updated

General Manager Joe Sakic and his staff have done a great job as of late finding and drafting talented skillful and potentially franchise-changing prospects. He has brought in players who are not only skilled but are good character players, as he himself was when he played. The likes of recent top picks like Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and, Cale Makar prove that theory to be correct.

Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic held the 25th overall selection at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft (Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The team added to an already talented prospect pool made up of the likes of Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, Alex Newhook, and Alex Beaucage by selecting defenseman Justin Barron with their first overall pick in this year’s draft.

Who is Justin Barron?

Barron is a product of Halifax, Nova Scotia where he played minor hockey before starting his junior career with his hometown Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL back in 2017. At still only 18 years of age the blueliner currently stands at 6’2″ and 196 pounds and is likely still growing.

He is entering his fourth season with the Mooseheads with the restart of the QMJHL’s 2020-21 season on Oct. 2. He flexed his offensive firepower during the 2018-19 season putting up his career-best 41 points (9 goals and 32 assists) while appearing in 68 games. Unfortunately, his following year was not as productive after being hampered by an injury that held him back to begin the season and only allowing him to appear in 34 games.

Injury Woes

While injuries are part of the game Barron could not be more unlucky with his injury holding him out for more than half of his draft-eligible season. Barron was diagnosed with a blood clot in his upper body back in December of 2019 caused by Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and required surgery to repair the issue.

Justin Barron Halifax Mooseheads
Justin Barron had 19 points in 34 games before missing the remainder of the 2019-20 QMJHL season due to injury. (Photo: Halifax Mooseheads)

The issue may have hampered his play to start the season but he has since made a full recovery and now back on the ice for the teams 2020-21 season. This is the main reason Barron had slid down draft boards despite the need for right-handed shooting defensemen throughout the NHL. he was originally expected to be drafted at some point in the second round but the Avalanche snatched him up in the first round.

Skillset

Barron is a big-bodied defenseman who has played in all situations for his team throughout his career. He is sound defensively while playing a physical style and chipping in offensively.

Strengths

  • Good and mobile skater despite the larger frame
  • Strong and hard to play against
  • High hockey sense makes him effective in al areas of the defensive zone
  • His awareness allows him to create offensive opportunities off the rush
  • Good gap control to limit rush attacks against

Weaknesses

  • Has not yet reached full offensive potential
  • Work on his shot from the point
  • Make better decisions with the puck when passing.

Organizational Fit and Projected Arrival

Barron is still young and joins an organization that is filled with defensive upside in its prospects. The Avalanche has now produced Cale Makar, Ryan Graves, and Conor Timmins who should all be NHL contributors this season and will now have both Byram and Barron developing in their system.

With the plethora of young defensemen in their system, the Avalanche will be able to take their time with their newest selection and allow him to bounce back after an injury-ridden season. He will have a large role as a veteran presence and captain for a young Moosehead team and is likely two to three years away from pushing for a roster spot at the NHL level.

Time Will Tell

Sakic went somewhat off the board with this selection considering Barron was projected to be drafted in the second round. However, the successes in recent drafts should make fans trust in the Avalanche’s staff and their scouting methods. Sakic swang for the fences with this pick and time will tell whether or not he has hit yet another home run.


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