A quick note before I start: this is the first draft profile of the 2020 class and part of a series I am starting this season which will alternate with Prospect Need to Know. I will shine the spotlight on one 2020 prospect each time, then include a top-10 of players who are hot right now. Hope you enjoy it.
Defenseman Justin Barron got some of the best on-the-job training a youngster can get last season, playing for the Memorial Cup-hosting Halifax Mooseheads. The QMJHL squad even made it to the final game before falling to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the same team that beat them in the ‘Q’ championship series. Making it extra-special was the fact Barron was born and raised in Halifax.
“I get to play in front of friends and family every day,” he said. “Growing up as a kid, I was a fan of the Mooseheads – I got to watch the 2013 Memorial Cup team (featuring Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin) and it was super-special. The whole team that year was so good, they were almost a juggernaut. It was really cool how the city really rallies around the team every year.”
Watching a bunch of QMJHL games as a kid also exposed Barron to one of his future NHL models, Thomas Chabot. Back then, the Ottawa Senators defenseman was still tearing it up for the Saint John Sea Dogs, division mates of the Mooseheads.
“I got to watch him a lot when he was with the Sea Dogs,” Barron said. “He’s such a gifted skater and plays a responsible two-way game, which is how I want to play.”
It would seem like a sure-thing that Barron would sign up to play in the ‘Q’ when it was his turn. But he was exposed to another route thanks to his older brother Morgan Barron, a New York Rangers draft pick currently playing for NCAA Cornell. Morgan, a powerful center, was drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs but spent his teen years at St. Andrew’s College prep school just outside of Toronto before heading to the Big Red in New York State.
“Both paths are really good,” Justin said. “My brother was in a different scenario than me. When the Mooseheads drafted me, I was thrilled. Getting drafted by your hometown team is really special and I felt it was the best fit for me. I’m really fortunate to be in this position.”
And the Mooseheads are fortunate to have him, too. Barron tallied 41 points last season, putting him second on the team in blueline scoring after Detroit Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac. With McIsaac recovering from shoulder surgery until approximately December, the Mooseheads will need Barron to really step up in the first half.
This summer, Barron got a chance to play for Canada at the World Junior Summer Showcase and looked really solid on a pairing with Colorado Avalanche first-rounder Bowen Byram. A right-shot blueliner with size and great skating ability, Barron looked very confident in Michigan, despite being one of the youngest guys on Canada’s roster. While he’ll be in tough to make the squad in December, the experience of that high-level competition will be invaluable.
Back in the QMJHL, Halifax is expected to be one of the better teams in the league again and no doubt Barron will be a big factor. And it’s pretty obvious that motivation won’t be a problem for the hometown kid.
Who’s hot in the 2020 draft class right now? Let’s take a look:
- Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): The best center available in the draft class is off to a monster start, leading the league with 12 points in five games.
- Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Not to be outdone, the top prospect in the draft has nine points through four games, including the OT winner on Sidney Crosby night.
- Zion Nybeck, RW, HV 71 (Swe.): Playing in Sweden’s southern junior circuit, Nybeck has dominated with 14 points in eight games.
- Anton Lundell, C, HIFK (Fin.): Right behind Byfield among center prospects, Lundell is playing against men and thriving. The big center has three goals and four points in six games.
- Carter Savoie, LW, Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL): With great speed and vision, Savoie has really impressed early. His 17 points in seven games ranks second in the Alberta Jr. A League to linemate and veteran Arjun Atwal. Savoie is an NCAA Denver commit.
- Simon Kubicek, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): This initial list is, admittedly, forward-heavy. So let’s give a shout-out to Kubicek, the import blueliner who has three points in two games.
- Luke Tuch, LW, U.S. NTDP (USHL): The younger brother of Vegas’ Alex Tuch, Luke is tied for the lead in NTDP scoring with Thomas Bordeleau with seven points in three games. Luke is a Boston U. commit.
- Tyson Foerster, C, Barrie Colts (OHL): Thanks to some great chemistry with Ryan Suzuki, Foerster had a six-point night in a 7-3 win over Mississauga.
- Emil Heineman, LW, Leksand (Swe.): Like Nybeck, Heineman has dominated Sweden’s junior ranks, leading the northern league with 16 points in 10 games.
- Justin Sourdif, C, Vancouver Giants (WHL): Second in WHL scoring, Sourdif has put up eight points in five games for a strong Giants team.