When the Colorado Avalanche traded away Kevin Shattenkirk back in 2011 in a blockbuster deal with the St. Louis Blues, they knew they were losing a valuable right handed shooting defenseman who could quarterback their powerplay. They also knew they had several prospects waiting in the wings with the potential to take his place.
One of those prospects, Tyson Barrie, has finally emerged and solidified himself as a top-four defenseman on the Avalanche blue-line as well as a key part of their offense. The former third round pick out of the WHL in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft made his professional debut with the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, at the start of the 2011-12 season.
Barrie had previously spent four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets and in his final two seasons averaged over a point-per-game. He also served as captain of the team and won silver with Team Canada in the 2011 WJC.
In his first season of professional hockey, he led the Monsters in scoring at the halfway point, earning him a selection to the AHL All-Star game. On February 4th, 2012, he was called up by the Avalanche where he immediately played significant minutes. However, he did not register a point in the 10 games he appeared in.
Barrie started the next season in Cleveland, back with the Monsters, due to the NHL lockout. When NHL play resumed, Barrie was again asked to play big minutes for the Avalanche who were experiencing a rash of injuries throughout the roster. In 32 games, Barrie had two goals and 11 assists for 13 points. For the Monsters, he had an even more impressive 29 points in 38 games.
It was also at this point that it became clear who the Avalanche’s top offensive defensive prospect was. Before, Barrie’s Monsters teammate Stefan Elliott was the top puck-moving defensive prospect for the team after making his impressive NHL debut in 2012.
Barrie’s first two stints in the NHL can only be described as pedestrian. While he showed a lot of promise, he still had a lot of areas of his game that were raw and easily exposed by NHL forwards.
The 2013-14 season
The 2013-14 season would give him a chance to start anew. He did make the team out of training camp, but his lackluster play forced head coach Patrick Roy to send him down to the Monsters for the first half of November. When he returned for a mid-November tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks, he had two assists and a plus two rating.
It took Barrie until the middle of December to really take off and he hasn’t slowed since. He scored 31 points in 47 games to end the regular season as the Avalanche took the league by surprise and beat out both the Blues and the Hawks for the Central Division title. Just the year before, the Avalanche finished second to last place in the entire league.
Barrie had become an important part of the Avalanche’s offense. His smooth skating and stick handling skills helped push the play and accurate passes allowed the team’s speedy forwards to create scoring chances off of the rush. Opponents had a difficult time containing the Avalanche.
Barrie’s first taste of the NHL playoffs resulted in two assists, both of which came in the first game, and a plus three rating. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, Barrie suffered a season ending knee-on-knee hit from Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild in the first round and the team was unable to replace his talent on the blue-line. Losing the series in overtime of game 7 was heartbreaking for Barrie to watch from the press box.
Entering this season, Barrie brushed aside any speculation that he was still hindered from the malicious hit of last season. In 25 games, he has 19 points to lead the Avalanche in scoring. Through his last 72 games, he has a total of 50 points. If he can keep up his current pace for the entirety of this season, it will be hard to not include him in Norris discussions.