The 2014 NHL Entry Draft is 10 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 21 today.
Who is Ivan Barbashev?
When talking about Ivan Barbashev, scouting reports are quick to point out that he's not a typical Russian player. He manages to avoid the usual descriptions Russian players get of being "lazy" or "inconsistent" because he plays like a grinder even though he has a top line skill set. Barbashev is a player who is always working whether in the offensive or the defensive zone. As he adjusted to the North American style of play in his first season with Moncton, his coach reduced his ice time and played him on the third line. Rather than pouting, Barbashev put effort into improving his defensive skills. While his point totals last season were less than many other first round hopefuls, he was the Wildcats' biggest offensive threat and was targeted by opposition defenses.
NHL Central Scouting's Troy Dumville had this to say about Barbashev's physical play:
He definitely can play that physical game and he's got good size[...] He'll fill out and develop into a good-sized player, but it's early. He'll definitely be one of the most skilled guys on his team and in the league. I don't see him playing that physical game night in and night out, but at the same time he's capable of it.
His biggest strength is that he's well-rounded. Multifaceted and tenacious, he's a pretty good skater, strong, and has good hockey sense. A man who is 6'1 and always competing will be a threat in any NHL offense.
This seriously fancy goal is the result of hard work. Barbashev just wants the puck more than the defenders, and he keeps working and beats them.
It's rare that highlight videos show defensive efforts, but this play is certainly highlight worthy.
Why Might the Blues Take Barbashev?
With prospects such as Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie, right wing is the forward position at which the Blues have the greatest prospect depth, and I would not expect them to draft one. Since they have Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo, the Blues don't have a need for elite young defensemen either. Their biggest weakness in their prospect corp is at center or at left wing, and Barbeshev played both of those positions in the QMJHL. Considering most people expect them to be Stanley Cup contenders again next season, they don't have a ton of immediate needs and can draft the best available player who could be Barbashev. The biggest downside to this kid seems to be that he's a Russian. It's a risk, but the Blues have shown that they are willing to draft Russians, and because they already have Tarasenko and Jaskin, it may be easier to keep any Russian players who they might add.
Would the Wild Select Barbashev?
The Wild generally don't draft Russians, and I don't know if Barbashev is a big enough slam dunk for them to take that risk. Wild management may find his size or his two-way game appealing, but they know that the biggest need is a goal scorer. Barbashev tailed 25 goals and 43 assists last season which would suggest that he is more of a playmaker than pure scorer, and the Wild already have plenty of playmakers. I would like to see the Wild draft a more dynamic offensive threat.