The Avalanche elected to use its first-round draft pick Tuesday to select defenseman Justin Barron of the Halifax Mooseheads 25th overall in the virtually-held NHL Draft. The 18-year-old is the 12th Mooseheads player taken in the first round and third by the Avs, joining superstar center Nathan MacKinnon and former Avs forward Alex Tanguay.
“I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the Colorado Avalanche,” Barron said.
Barron, who is a late 2001 birthday and one of the older players in the draft, is the third defenseman selected in the first round by GM Joe Sakic and his staff since 2017. He joins 2019 fourth overall pick Bowen Byram and 2017 fourth overall pick and reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar.
“Our goal going into every draft, especially in the first round, is to take the best player available,” Avs general manager Joe Sakic said. “It just so happens the last few years most of them have been defenseman. And to us, that’s a good thing. Defensemen are the hardest players to trade for and when you have them you feel pretty lucky.”
Known for his exceptional skating ability, Barron excels at transitioning the puck up the ice and into the offensive zone. He’s also known for his strong shot from the blueline and two-way game.
“We’re fortunate that he was available for us,” Sakic said. “He’s a guy that we had ranked higher than where we got him. He’s going to add to the way we like to play the game. He’s a really good two-way player. He can defend well and penalty kill as well.”
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Barron enters his fourth year with the hometown Mooseheads. The 6’2, 198-pound defenseman played just 34 games in 2019-20 due to blood clots and the eventual Quebec Major Junior Hockey League shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He scored four goals and totaled 19 points. In 2018-19, Barron recorded career-highs in goals (9), assists (32) and points (41), and added 13 points in 23 games during a lengthy playoff run with the Mooseheads.
Barron’s draft stock continued to fall after his blood clot issues in 2019-20. he was once touted as one of the better defensemen eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft but without a draft combine, teams were unable to have medical personnel discuss these issues with Barron. Sakic confirmed that the issues Barron was having have been solved and he’s healthy and ready to continue his development with Halifax.
“Getting the procedure done to fix what caused the blood clot was the right decision for me and my career,” Barron said. “We informed all the teams of that, we sent them all the medical records. At that point, it’s really up to them and obviously, Colorado saw that the procedure was done well and it was a good decision and they looked past that.”
MacKinnon, who’s also from Halifax, helped the Mooseheads capture the Memorial Cup in 2013. Barron and the Mooseheads were defeated in the 2019 Memorial Cup Final by Rouyn-Noranda after a league-leading 49 wins in the regular season. He expects his fourth season with the Mooseheads to begin in the coming weeks.
MacKinnon, along with Makar both texted the latest Avalanche draft pick after he was selected.
“That was definitely pretty cool,” Barron said. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet MacKinnon. I haven’t met Cale Makar yet but he’s a special player and I love to watch him play. Joe Sakic called me as well, right after. So it was really cool talking to him as well.”