Photo: Nick Wass/Associated Press
When the Capitals drafted him in the sixth-round (167th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, it’s likely right wing Riley Barber didn’t turn many heads. As much of the media coverage and fanfare surrounding the draft are focused on the first few rounds, Barber’s selection likely went unnoticed by most. But nearly five years later, the young forward from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a contender to start next season in Washington.
One of the Capitals’ most promising forward prospects, Barber’s performance in the American Hockey League with the Hershey Bears through his first two professional seasons after an impressive college career with the University of Miami (Ohio) earned the 23-year old his first NHL call-up late this past season. In three games, he recorded no points, but did have two shots on net. And while three games is a small sample size, Barber may have the opportunity to do more next season.
With the possibility of losing Top-Six right wings T.J. Oshie and/or Justin Williams to free agency on July 1, the Caps will be looking to their NHL-ready prospects to step up and prove themselves at the NHL level in 2017-18. Among those prospects is Barber. His first two professional seasons indicate he’s ready for more than the AHL. In his first season as a pro (2015-16), Barber recorded an impressive 55 points (26 goals, 29 assists) in 74 games played, with a plus/minus rating of plus-4, and was among the Bears’ best players in their trip to the Calder Cup Final. His second season, however, was shortened due to injury, but he still managed to put up 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 39 games played. Through 113 games played in the AHL, Barber has a total of 82 points.
But Barber also has the bulldog-like mentality that Oshie provides, always working just a little bit harder to give his team the best chance to score. While he is a smaller player (6’0″, 193 pounds), his willingness to do whatever it takes will aide him well in the NHL. While there are other promising prospects that may be ready for a shot at the NHL, Barber has proven himself worthy of a real shot at making the Caps’ Opening Night roster next season. With a strong performance in training camp and the preseason, that shot could come sooner rather than later.
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By Michael Fleetwood