Acquired in the trade that sent Artturi Lehkonen to Colorado, Justin Barron joins names like Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, and several other hopefuls on the blue line for the future of the CH.
Barron was in the conversation for best available defenseman in the 2020 draft and most likely would have been selected much sooner than 25th, but a blood clot in his senior year as a junior scared multiple organizations and he dropped all the way to the Avalanche at the end of the first round.
He wore the C for the Mooseheads in his final season in the QMJHL. He also represented Canada at the international level before graduating to the American League full-time this season, where he continued to shine with 20 points in 43 games at just 20 years old for the Avalanche training club.
At 6-foot-2 and 195 lbs, Barron is also a defenseman who has surprising mobility for his size. He’ll never match the wave of young star defensemen like Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and others offensively, but he definitely has the athleticism needed for modern hockey.
He played more than 20 minutes per game for the Colorado Eagles and stood out with his puck decision making. Among skilled defensemen, Barron had the 15th-lowest turnover rate in the league, a great sign of maturity.
As soon as he arrived in Montreal, Martin St-Louis did not hesitate to not only insert Barron in the line-up, but to entrust him with major responsibilities in the absence of Jeff Petry. The young defender already gets more than 19 minutes of playing time per night on average alongside Joel Edmundson on the first defensive unit for Montreal. He’s also tied with Corey Schueneman for most-used defenseman in overtime. In short, St-Louis is already treating him like a veteran and Barron is answering the call.
He is dynamic with the puck, which is not the case for players like Edmundson and David Savard, who have more defensive styles of play. It’s also something that was already missing from the CH blue line before Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak were traded and Petry went missing. He continues to show his athleticism with the big club.
He does not hesitate to carry the puck out of his zone himself and is second among CH defenders in zone outs since his arrival in the lineup. This mobility isn’t limited to transition play, either. He is also aggressive in the offensive zone and supports the attack when the opportunity arises with four chances to score in as many games.
There is still work to be done at the other end of the rink. Barron is last among the CH defensive brigade in the rate of zone entries pushed back, but it must be said that he faced a whole host of opponents to start his career in Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.
The Panthers, Lightning, and Carolina are three of the best teams in the NHL, while the Devils have Jack Hughes, who is having an incredible season and whose speed gives headaches to many players more experienced than the young number. 52 of CH.
At only 20 years old, Justin Barron still has a lot of time to develop and establish himself as a regular in the top 4 defensive of the CH for the years to come. His defensive game should improve as he gains experience. The presence of Joel Edmundson at his side is also beneficial.
Jeff Petry’s performance with Edmundson last year and without the 44 this season shows the kind of impact he can have on his partner. He can come and fix Barron’s mistakes and allow him to be more aggressive offensively, which is a great situation for a young defender. In short, a successful and encouraging first impression for Justin Barron in Montreal.