There are certainly not a lot of positives to be drawn from the 2013-14 Washington Capitals season. With the playoffs almost completely out of the question, many have taken a look down the Caps’ pipeline, seeing which prospects could make an impact in the near future. The Capitals signed second round draft selection Madison Bowey on Wednesday, inking the former second rounder to a three year entry level contract.
Another prospect that could sign his first pro contract in the coming years is versatile forward Riley Barber, a Pittsburgh native, and Washington 2012 sixth round draftee. Barber, 20, recently finished his sophomore season at Miami University of Ohio and has made great strides throughout his development at the collegiate level since he was selected by the Capitals a few summers ago.
After his season end with the RedHawks, the 20 year old winger was able to chat with The Hockey Writers on an array of topics including his collegiate season and representing the United States of America for the Under 20 World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia.
His sophomore season was an up and down one to say the least, as Miami of Ohio’s season ended with a 4-3 loss in the NCHC tournament against Denver. The RedHawks had losing streaks of three games (twice) and four games throughout the season and finished with a 15-19-3 record.
“Obviously this year was tough,” Barber said. “We had some ups and downs, but overall I think we had a positive finish.”
The Frozen Four gets underway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this week, but Barber is unlikely to watch due to Miami’s lack of participation.
“I watch some of my buddies (in the NCAA tournament). I try not to watch too much of it cause it’s kind of hard to watch for me anyhow, just seeing it. They’re still playing and we’re not. All those teams in there deserve it and good luck to all of them.”
Barber had another solid season for Miami of Ohio in his sophomore campaign, surpassing the point per game plateau once again this season, with 44 points in 38 games, second on the team behind forward Austin Czarnik who finished with 46 points in 36 games. Barber has collected 83 points in 78 total NCAA contests, an average of 1.06 points per game which ranks him with the top players in the country over the past two seasons. His coach Enrico Blasi has had a substantial impact on Barber’s impact from his very first practice, along with the decision to come to Miami University of Ohio.
“He’s really impacted me,” the Capitals prospect emulated of Blasi’s help. “He’s given me every opportunity since day one from freshman (year) till I evolved into the player I am today. He’s pushed me every day in practice, he’s a really big reason for my development.”
“I think just the mix of athletics and school at Miami was one that the other schools that I visited didn’t really have,” Barber said of the decision to become a RedHawk. “Hockey is the number one sport here, it’s a great fan base, a great campus and a great school just thought it had everything for me.”
Barber said he had an “unforgettable” experience with his teammates at the Under 20 WJHC and he continued to spend some time with two fellow Capitals prospects.
“I played with Thomas DiPauli and Connor Carrick in my Under 18 (tournament) so we’re really close. Especially being able to go to summer camps and hang out with some of the guys you develop relationships.”
— Riley Barber (@rileybarber94) April 3, 2014
He reiterated that he hadn’t made a decision to go pro yet at the time of the interview, but announced that he’d be returning to Miami University of Ohio Thursday morning. Barber’s teammates Austin Czarnik and Blake Coleman recently announced they are returning to the RedHawks next season which likely factored into his decision as the opportunity to win almost does.
— Miami Hockey (@MiamiOH_Hockey) April 2, 2014
“That would be awesome,” said Barber on possibly getting a chance to play for the Capitals in his first pro season like Carrick has. “Whenever you get a chance to play with the big boys it’s something special. That’d be great.”
The 20 year old said there are some parts of his game he wants to get better, which could lead to a quicker arrival to the NHL than many ever imagined from a sixth round draft selection.
“My quickness I want to get better at, also just improve in all aspects. Skating, shooting is an area I really try to work on during the summer, but I think I’m really going to work on my quickness this summer.”
Matthew Speck covers the Washington Capitals organization for The Hockey Writers. He provides coverage of both Washington at the NHL level and prospect related content. Matthew also covers local sports for the Lebanon Daily News in Central Pennsylvania. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.