Andrew Schopp profiles two young defensemen with lots of upside.
Two 21-year-old defensive prospects from the 2009 NHL Draft got the call up to The Show this week for Colorado and Toronto. One, Tyson Barrie, saw more time in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche after an unexpected demotion to the minors. The other, Jesse Blacker, has yet to make his NHL debut after being briefly called-up to the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Marlies earlier this week. Although at different stages of their development, both are solid defensemen with the ability to contribute offensively and have great fantasy upside as top four defensemen.
Jesse Blacker - Round 2, 58th Overall 2009 NHL Entry Draft
With Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles out with an ankle injury, the Buds brought Jesse Blacker up from the Marlies on March 25. However did not utilize him. Blacker has yet to make his NHL debut and was subsequently sent back down to the Marlies March 28 upon the return of Liles.
A positional defenseman with the ability to contribute offensively on occasion, Blacker has 16 points, plus-8 in 58 games with the Marlies this season. Blacker is aggressive, drops the gloves occasionally, and uses his large stature to his advantage playing a physical game.
Blacker will likely play out the remainder of this season with the Marlies where he will continue to develop and work on his conditioning to make the most of his size. Blacker has good fantasy upside as a potential top-four defenseman within the next couple of years.
Tyson Barrie - Round 3, 64th Overall 2009 NHL Entry Draft
The former captain of the WHL Kelowna Rockets has shared time between the Colorado Avalanche and AHL affiliate Lake Erie Monsters this season. A playmaking offensive-defenseman with great hands and vision, Barrie has brought his offensive contributions over to the big league with seven points in 17 NHL games this season.
In just 38 AHL games, Barrie is one point behind Lake Erie's top scoring defenseman, Thomas Pock, who has 30 points in 59 games.
With Avs defensemen Ryan Wilson out indefinitely with an ankle injury, Barrie will likely remain with the big club for the remainder of the season. He is averaging roughly 20 minutes a game, ranking fourth on the Avs roster in TOI per game.
The primary concern surrounding Barrie is his size. Standing at just 5-10, 190 pounds, he needs to bulk up in order to physically match NHL forwards.
Although lacking physicality, Barrie’s potential as an offensive defenseman will ensure he gets an opportunity to play in Colorado (a team without much puck moving ability from the back end). The Avalanche have utilized Barrie on the power play this season where he has notched three of his seven points. As the Avs top offensive prospect on defense, expect Barrie to continue to see plenty of ice time anchoring the struggling clubs power play as they continue to rebuild.
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Andrew Schopp is an aspiring hockey journalist born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. Completed a BA in Political Science from Dalhousie University and interns at The Hockey News magazine. Lives and breathes hockey. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AZSchopp.