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Who is Tyson Barrie?
When Barrie was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, expectations were tempered. Taken in the round before him was another defenseman of Barrie’s same ilk: Stefan Elliott. Both were puck-moving defensemen with exceptional offensive skills and questionable defensive ones. Their fates bound together quickly, and people planted themselves firmly in either the Barrie Camp or the Elliott Camp.
Elliott’s size and what appeared to be a faster development curve gave him NHL time first, yet he didn’t secure a regular spot on the Avalanche roster. Barrie then had his shot and met the same fate. But something happened to Barrie when he was sent back to the AHL in 2013, something that unleashed a talent few believed was there.
Barrie quickly became an integral part of the Avalanche blueline during his second call up, providing a scoring touch that saw not just points on the board, but timely ones. His three OT goals tied the Avalanche franchise single-season record (set by David Jones in 2010-11), made him the first NHL defenseman to record three OT goals since Dustin Byfuglien in 2010-2011, and gave him the franchise record for most career OT winners by a defenseman (4).
2013-2014 saw many more accomplishments for the 5’10”, 190-pound Victoria native. He led all Avs defensemen in goals at 13 (most since John-Michael Liles in 2006-2007), was second for d-men in points (38) and assists (25) for the season, scored five game-winning goals—tying at third for all NHL defenseman that season and second for all franchise defensemen—and that’s just the top of the list. In short, he had a stellar season.
The Avalanche ended the season with a division championship, due in large part to Barrie’s offensive contributions. His importance to the team became heartbreakingly clear when he suffered a knee injury in Game 3 of the first round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, a nasty knee-on-knee hit that ended his season. The Avs struggled mightily after that, with a power play that went anemic without the prolific quarterback on the blueline, losing the series to the Wild in seven games.
One area of weakness for Barrie has always been the defensive side of his game. With a request by Coach Roy to work on that during the offseason, Barrie came back for the 2014-2015 season with a new skill set. While he still wasn’t quite a defensive stalwart, he became much more reliable in his own end, using his talents to his advantage. One talent that stood out was his transition game. Barrie had the best outlet pass on the team, sparking the Colorado offense and providing key puck possession.
Many believed Barrie wouldn’t be able to equal his performance from 2013-2014, and they were right; instead, he improved upon it. He finished the season with 13 goals and a whopping 41 assists for 53 points in 80 games, leading all Avalanche defensemen. Even more impressive is that the majority of those points came at even strength.
He also became much more effective when jumping into the play, picking his moments to pinch down low better than ever before. His shot remained lethal with a quick release and uncanny ability to weave a puck through traffic to set up for a goal, a tip, or a rebound.
When Erik Johnson went down with an injury, Barrie became the team’s top defenseman. He averaged 21 minutes of ice time per night and ended logging the most minutes of the entire team by the end of the season.
Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2014-2015, Barrie still tasted the thrill of winning a championship by helping Team Canada go undefeated to take Gold at the World Championships in May. Just being named to the talent-laden team was a recognition of his skill; however, the six points (1 goal, 5 assists) he put up during the 10-game tournament was affirmation of it.
The past two seasons have made it clear that Tyson Barrie was a draft steal. He’s considered one of the hottest young defensemen in the league, proving that his performance in 2013-2014 was more of a breakout season than an anomalous one.
What is the future for Tyson Barrie?
Barrie has solidified himself as a second-pairing defenseman with top-pairing potential. He’s a permanent fixture on the power play and will only improve with time, especially when given a quality defensive partner.
Tyson’s on the second season of a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $2.6 million, quite the bargain for Colorado at this point. Re-signing Barrie is a no-brainer. Signing him long term should be an equally easy decision for the Avalanche. Give him the years and money he’s shown he deserves.
At just 23 years of age, Barrie has become part of the core for this team, recognized by fans and coaches alike as a cornerstone to future success. He should be part of this organization for many years to come, adding more franchise records to his resume along the way.