LW Colby Barlow is the package of skill and strength the Canucks need at 11th overall
8 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players who could be available for the Vancouver Canucks with the 11th pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
We’ve previously broken down Swedish right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka; last season’s youngest NCAA player, BC’s own, Matthew Wood; Bo Horvat comparable, Slovakian centre Dalibor Dvorský; draft long shot Matvei Michkov; OHLer Calum Ritchie; the fastest skater of the draft, USNTDP centre Oliver Moore; Russian LD Dmitri Simashev; Canuck favourite David Reinbacher; number one OHL pick Quentin Musty, and Brandon Wheat King captain Nate Danielson; draft riser RD Tom Willander, and playmaking wizard Zach Benson. Today, we’re covering all our bases by introducing the final prospect the Canucks dined — OHL LW Colby Barlow.
He may have been born on Valentine’s Day, but believe me, Colby Barlow is no teddy bear. He’s an actual bear, according to Elite Prospects. And once you take a look at him, you’ll understand exactly what they mean. He plays an extremely snappy game. Standing at 6’1, 187 lbs, Barlow has a heavy shot, strong enough to “put holes in the endboards,” and it’s a quick one too. His shot is incredibly whippy and hard for a goaltender to track. Not only is his shot developed, but so too is his strength. Barlow is a man: he looks like one, plays like one, and has the strength of one.
To a certain degree, this has worried scouts: “Has he hit his threshold already?” I don’t think so. The height and weight might not change too much, but he still needs to “grow” into his body. He could be leveraging his strength so much more on breakouts. Right now, because he’s not, he’s not the F1 and he does more damage from the hash marks. And it’s certainly not a result of laziness. Barlow’s compete level is through the roof: wherever you pluck him on the ice — powerplay, penalty kill, even strength, protecting a lead, trailing, whatever — he’s operating at at least 100%.
Growing up in Ontario, Barlow was a member of the Toronto Bulldogs Brick team, composed of the best nine and 10-year-olds in the region, and played for the Toronto Marlboros. In a 34-game season with the Marlboros, he put up 47 points (23 G, 24 A). He was then drafted eighth overall in the 2021 OHL Draft to Owen Sound Attack, where he’s played two seasons, the latest as the captain. In his rookie year, Barlow put up a 47-point (30 G, 17 A) campaign in 59 games. This season, Barlow finished with 79 points (46 G, 33 A) in as many games. He was the saving grace for his (33–28–6) team many times this season, scoring a league leading 12 game-winning goals. He combined for 23 points (13 G, 10 A) on the power play, and get this: only picked up 29 penalty minutes this season. He’s throwing hits, and not putting his team down a man doing so. Strength and skill? You have to love it, and the Canucks desperately need it. They haven’t found a player yet that is both masterfully a natural-born scorer and a grueling physical presence. And that’s hard to find in general across the league.
What the scoutings are saying
Craig Button, TSN: “There are so many things to love about Colby Barlow. Obviously, scoring ability is high on the list. But this is a well-rounded player: he can play in a rugged game, he can play in a fast game, he can play in a checking game — a really good penalty killer. But that shot, the way he snaps it off, is a real hallmark of his game. If you give him an opening, he gets his stick and that puck into positions where he can beat goaltenders.”
Smaht Scouting: “Colby Barlow knows exactly what he needs to do in order score goals. Get to high danger. Establish open ice. He does that on repeat. Every shift. He is looking to acquire open ice to create passing lanes and then quickly get a shot off at net-front. Barlow has found success in high danger areas off of the rush and mid-cycle. He does a good job of hanging in stride with his puck carrying teammate on odd man rushes to provide a back door option at net-front.”
Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff: “One of the few players to come close to hitting the 50-goal mark this season, Barlow has scored at all levels and is as confident as anyone handling the puck. There’s room for his all-around game to grow, but scoring clearly isn’t an issue. He was banged up during the OHL playoffs but had a decent showing at the U-18s.”
Brock Otten, McKeen’s Hockey: “Barlow’s transitional impact is limited at times by his inability to handle or accept passes in full stride. Additionally, he can get bottled up in the neutral zone due to a lack of creativity as a puck handler. Without question, Barlow is currently at his best either without the puck, or with the puck down low inside the hash marks.”
Mitchell Brown, Elite Prospects: “Barlow’s path to the NHL is pretty straightforward. He’s an NHL shooter. Hit the post twice from sharp angles. Adaptable release, firing from tricky positions while pressured. Creates a bit of space for his shot, but his pass receptions aren’t always clear, which limits some of his effectiveness. At least a 6.5 shooter. He’s not a playmaker, but he has play-building skills.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects)
On average, Barlow’s bang-on to go 14th overall. Both TSN’s Craig Button and Bob McKenzie think highly enough of Barlow to put him in the top-10 of an incredibly competitive forward draft class. It’s no question he’s a first-round draft pick, more likely a mid-pick than a high pick, but if a team really likes him, he could get nabbed up sooner than later. Canucks met with Barlow just over two weeks back at the NHL Combine, as well as the pick projected to go right before him: Matthew Wood. While Wood was the youngest NCAA player this season, Barlow was four goals away of becoming the sixth player to score 50 goals in the OHL: all five players with this accomplishment are still in the NHL, most famously, John Tavares and Steven Stamkos. He did, however, become the fifth player to score 30 goals as a 17-year-old in the OHL in the last 10 years. His shot’s ridiculous.
You’re going to get some goals out of Colby Barlow. All the players we’ve looked at so far, although equally as skilled, were playmakers. Barlow on the other hand, isn’t as creative, won’t get as many assists, but he’ll put the puck in the net a lot more. Although he’s got a heck of a shot, you’ll find him floating around the front of the net searching for rebounds and bringing a level of chippiness to the blue paint. That being said, as Elite Prospects says, “the dude looks like he has a mortgage and gets excited by the prospect of mowing his lawn.” Interesting way of phrasing it, but it’s absolutely true. Most of the picks in the first-round, look young. They look their age, and they look like babies. If you thought Adam Fantelli looked mature: wait till you find out that Fantelli is Barlow’s nephew.
Although Barlow’s size has helped his draft stock, it’s also hurting it. Is he a case of a player who’s already on the other side of puberty? Maybe. But I don’t think his physicality has been that dominant to say so. He doesn’t shy away from contact, because he’s a big guy himself, but he certainly doesn’t utilize it as much as he should in high pressure situations. Problem is, he’s only really got his shot cooking, which makes scouts wonder if he lacks the dynamicity to be successful at the next level. His slot passes aren’t great.
Sometimes passes don’t land, and he isn’t terribly fast. But he’s running at full capacity on the ice: he always finishes checks, battles on the boards, engages with play, and understands where to go on the ice. When he does have the puck, he’s got the shooting arsenal: you name it. Slap-shot one-timer, wrist shot, and the ability to settle down pucks in what feels like half a second. It’s on and off the stick so fast, even with a replay, you’ll have a hard time tracking exactly where the puck went. He’d definitely give Elias Pettersson a run for his money for the hardest shot in the league. The Canucks probably won’t have to fight off any teams to draft him, so it’s really a matter of how much the Canucks like Barlow by the time pick number 11 rolls around in the draft.
What would your reaction be if the Canucks drafted Colby Barlow? Let us know in the comments below!
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