The New York Rangers have had eight first round picks in the previous five NHL Drafts, and they have plenty of talented, young prospects. However, as the Blueshirts look to get tougher and better defensively, center Morgan Barron, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Draft, could prove to be a valuable player.
Barron’s Rise as a Prospect
After the Blueshirts drafted Barron he had an impressive freshman season playing for Cornell University. He got off to a hot start, with a point in each of his first seven games and finished the season with five goals and 18 assists in 33 games. He demonstrated poise in important situations, was effective defensively and showed he wasn’t afraid to block shots.
Following his strong freshman season, Barron continued to develop and improve as a sophomore. He played a bigger role with Cornell in his second season and thrived, as he led the team in both goals (15) and points (34) while playing in 36 games. He also did a nice job on faceoffs, winning 181 of the 336 he took (55.1 percent.)
Barron’s junior season at Cornell was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he played at a high level and continued to get stronger. He once again led the team in both goals (14) and points (32) while playing in 29 games. He also won 97 of 173 faceoffs (56.1 percent) and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the men’s best college hockey player.
During the 2020 offseason, Barron signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers and he began the 2020-21 season playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Hartford Wolf Pack. The season was cut short once again because of the pandemic, but the young center showed he wasn’t overmatched while playing professionally.
Barron scored 10 goals and added 11 assists in just 21 games with the Wolf Pack. His strong play earned him a shot with the Rangers late in the season. Though he only played in five games and was used as a bottom-six forward he did a nice job in the role. He played with physicality and scored his first NHL goal.
Rangers Want Gritty Players
The Rangers made several moves this season to add grit to their roster as they acquired Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais, Ryan Reaves and Jarred Tinordi. Barron also plays a gritty, physical style but at just 22 years old he has more offensive upside than the players the Blueshirts acquired this offseason and he can certainly contribute this season.
Barron’s ability to play center or winger while helping kill penalties makes him a valuable prospect. One glaring issue for the Rangers over the last few seasons has been their inability to win faceoffs, which was a strength of Barron’s while playing at Cornell. If he can continue to win the majority of his faceoffs with the Blueshirts, it will help him earn a spot in their lineup.
This offseason the Rangers traded away Brett Howden after he had a disappointing 2020-21 season. Like Howden, Barron has good size and has shown he can be effective defensively but Barron also has more upside and should be able to chip in offensively as he has shown quick hands around the net.
Expectations for Barron
Barron proved to be one of the most impressive Rangers at their developmental camp. He was smart, strong on the puck and created opportunities. He scored a goal on a quick wrist shot after he stole the puck in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers prospects.
Though Barron hasn’t received as much attention as many of the Rangers’ higher draft picks, his size, grit and skill all make him a valuable player and he appears ready to help the team this season.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.