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2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Justin Barron one of the top draft-eligible QMJHL defensemen

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Despite having a challenging 2019-20 campaign, Justin Barron still figures to be one of the top defensemen available in the draft.

Halifax Mooseheads v Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is coming up, and this year’s draft class has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. For the entire month of May, we will be profiling each of the top prospects available in the draft — many of whom could be candidates to be selected by the Minnesota Wild. Follow along as we dive deep into the strengths and weaknesses of each notable player eligible to be drafted.

A number of NHL hopefuls have risen up the draft rankings over the last several months. Marco Rossi is suddenly a potential top-five prospect, Tim Stutzle is now the favorite to go third overall and Dylan Holloway is now likely to be the first college player selected.

Justin Barron, on the other hand, has definitely not risen up many draft boards. In fact, some were expecting him to be the best defenseman in this year’s draft — and, granted, that could turn out to be a real possibility within the next decade or so. But in terms of where he ranks amongst his peers right now, he has fallen off a little bit after a tough and incredibly unlucky 2019-20 campaign.

Still, he does remain one of the better defensemen available in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

2019-20 season review

Having collected nine goals and 32 assists in 2018-19 with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, it wasn’t out of the question to anticipate a huge leap in production for Barron in his draft year. Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season ended up being a challenging one for the Nova Scotia native. He missed a significant portion of the season due to a blood clot, and in the games he did play, it was evident that he still needed some additional time to develop.

Overall, Barron finished the 2019-20 season with four goals and 15 assists in 34 games with a minus-19 rating — in 2018-19, he finished with a rating of plus-42. Surprisingly, even having missed three months of the season, Barron still led all Mooseheads defensemen in points with 19 on the year.

Skill set

Barron is an all-around good hockey player. There aren’t a ton of flaws in his game, but while his weakness aren’t glaring, he also doesn’t possess many standout strengths. That said, though, he has shown flashes throughout his QMJHL career that justify his placement with some of the top defensemen eligible for the draft.

Perhaps the trait that many notice right away with Barron is his skating ability. He can absolutely fly, and while he’s not the most offensively aggressive blueliner, he has proven to make spectacular end-to-end rushes on occasion. Strong skating is essential in today’s NHL, and Barron’s skating is as good as anyone’s in this year’s draft.

His goal against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan during the 2018-19 season was one of the prettier plays he’s made during his time in Halifax, and it was his speed that made the goal so impressive.

He scored a similar goal against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in May of 2019 that also raised a fair amount of eyebrows.

Of course, strong skating isn’t all about speed, however. While Barron does have some wheels on him, he’s also very good at quickly closing in on attackers entering the offensive zone in order to negate a rush.

Listed at 6’2 and 187 pounds, Barron is a bigger defenseman with an obvious size advantage over many smaller forwards. Unsurprisingly, Barron has used his size to his advantage in the QMJHL — he’s not afraid to lay the body, and when he does, it typically gets people’s attention.

At last summer’s World Junior Summer Showcase, Barron got some recognition after dishing out a massive hit on current Philadelphia Flyers forward Joel Farabee.

Defensively, there’s a lot to like about Barron. His skating will help him tremendously at the next level, and one could argue that he’s already physically fit enough to survive against bigger, stronger competition in the pros. While he does still have some improvements to make, he’s generally a responsible defender with a long reach who routinely limits opposing teams’ scoring opportunities.

Just pretend you didn’t see this footage from the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Offensively, Barron is still a bit of a work in progress. While he’s far from a hindrance in the attacking zone, he plays a pretty simple offensive game that sometimes lacks creativity — not exactly an uncommon theme for many defense-focused blueliners. For the most part, Barron moves the puck quite well, though he is susceptible to the occasional blemish.

“A solid right-shot defender with size, Barron can be physical and does an excellent job of taking care of his own zone first,” said ESPN’s Chris Peters of Barron. “Although his offensive upside isn’t necessarily high end, his ability to get pucks up ice and out of his zone will aid his team’s offensive attack.”

Bottom line

Had it not been for the blood clot that kept him out of action for three months, many may have regarded Justin Barron as a top-15 selection. That is still a possibility, but not nearly as likely as it was prior to the 2019-20 season. While some draft experts have him ranked toward the middle of the first round, others view him as a second-round prospect. EliteProspects has him placed at No. 70 in their current prospect rankings, which is far lower than many others project.

Regardless of where he’s selected, Barron is a good prospect with a skating ability that many teams love in young defensemen. He may not be the flashiest blueliner in the draft, but he’s certainly capable of becoming a key cog for an NHL team one day.