At the trade deadline, Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes began his work to renovate the Habs’ roster and make the team younger. On deadline day, he traded popular forward Artturi Lehkonen to the Colorado Avalanche in return for a 2024 second-round pick and defence prospect Justin Barron.
Barron arrived in Montreal and participated in his first practice on Wednesday, March 23. Afterwards, in his first interview as a member of the Canadiens, he sat behind the microphone, cleared his throat, and with a giant smile said “Bonjour tout le monde”. His disarming smile and a good grasp of the French language instantly ingratiated him with the local media. However, bilingualism is just a tiny bonus. It is his hockey skills that will earn him a roster spot, and, with some time and a little development, could make him an instant fan favourite.
Hughes addressed the media immediately after he completed his work on trade deadline day. In that address, he spoke of the importance of adding a right-handed defenceman to the system.
It’s important for us to add a righty. We have certain needs, and there was one here with this position.Kent Hughes (translated from French)
It’s no secret that the Canadiens are thin on the right side of the blue line in their prospect pool. Adding Barron is a very good step in addressing that deficiency. With the Avalanche growing into Stanley Cup contenders, thanks in large part to their stacked blue line, Hughes took advantage of that and targeted a prospect that on a thinner defensive team would have been their top prospect.
Considering the depth on Colorado’s blue line, he would have had a difficult time cracking their lineup as a regular anytime soon. In Montreal however, he will get a far better opportunity to step directly into an NHL role on a second or third pairing and show how far his development has come. In a lost season, the Canadiens have the luxury of providing him with that chance in a more controlled environment with far less pressure.
Canadiens Get a Top Prospect
Barron suffered a setback in his draft year, if it weren’t for a blood clot in his shoulder and missed several months of the season, he likely would have performed to his full abilities and have been selected higher than 25th overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
In his short time with Colorado, he had displayed some of that high-end ability they saw from him as captain of the Halifax Mooseheads in his draft year. In his first full professional season, the 20-year-old has become a steadying influence on the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, Colorado Eagles’ blue line with 20 points in 43 games, playing on the second pairing and in all situations. He’s shown so much progress that some who watch Colorado felt it was a mistake to trade the young defenceman
Barron is a versatile two-way defender who can play on a power play, but also play in a shutdown role. Canadiens fans may remember him being used as a go-to defender when he was paired with the Habs’ 2020 first-round pick, Kaiden Guhle on Team Canada at the 2021 World Junior Championship where they earned a silver medal.
How Barron Sees Himself
The Halifax, NS native boasts good size with a 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame. He has built his game on a foundation of mobility and high-end skating skills. He has a very strong first step in all directions which allows him to keep tight gaps or create separation. He excels in retrieving pucks in his own zone, showing an aggressive attack to the corners where he is willing to give or take contact to move the puck out of the danger areas. Defensively, he will play a physical game to clear his crease. Offensively, he can move the puck up ice with a crisp and accurate pass, or he can carry the puck under control creating controlled zone exits and entries, making him an ideal defender for a team that wants to play a possession-style game.
A good indication of what style to expect from a player is to simply ask him about his game, who he models his game after, and fans got those answers in Barron’s first interview in Montreal.
“My skating is maybe my best attribute. I’m at my best when I keep my feet moving. My speed lets me play a 200-foot game. I’ve been watching (Alex) Pietrangelo closely for the last seven years. I like his style, a big guy who’s a great skater. I’m kind of like him, he prides himself in playing in any situation, the power play, and penalty kill and he’s also a great leader.”
Alex Pieterangelo of the Vegas Golden Knights is an excellent player to model a game after. He’s a top-pairing defender who can do it all as the captain of the St. Louis Blues in 2019 when they came back from last place to earn a playoff berth then marched to a Stanley Cup title.
Barron has started his time in Montreal on the right foot, making himself respected by a segment of the fan base by demonstrating his bilingualism. Now, he faces the task of winning over interim head coach Martin St. Louis with his on-ice skills. If Barron can become a player that can play the style he says he enjoys playing, while in a second-pairing role, then the Canadiens and their fans will be very pleased.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 29 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist with the goal to be a trusted source of information and entertainment.