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Best friends Jaskin, Barbashev reunited with Blues

Tuesday, 07.08.2014 / 2:12 PM / NHL Insider

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

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Best friends Jaskin, Barbashev reunited with Blues
Dmitrij Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev formed a close bond during their season of junior hockey in Moncton. They're together again with the Blues.

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- They've known one another for roughly two years, but for St. Louis Blues prospects Dmitrij Jaskin and Ivan Barbashev, the bond has made it feel like a lifetime.

Both are natives of Russia: Jaskin a Czech raised in Omsk; Barbashev born and raised in Moscow. At a young age and about to embark on new lives in North America, they relied on one another to get by in a different culture. It set the wheels in motion on a friendship that continues to grow in strength.

They were drafted together by the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the 2012 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, and now Jaskin and Barbashev are together again as draft picks of the St. Louis Blues.

Jaskin, 21, and Barbashev, 18, were second-round picks in the NHL draft. Jaskin was the 41st pick in 2011 while Barbashev, who was projected as a mid-first round selection, was the 33rd pick of the 2014 draft.

They arrived in Moncton without much knowledge of the North American culture. But the common denominator was Jaskin and Barbashev had each other, and a friendship rapidly ensued.

"When we got drafted we just called each other and tried to get to know each other," Jaskin said. "That year (2012) was amazing. We helped each other. He didn't know English; I didn't know [English] either. We tried to help each other. I had some experience before, but I never played in North America. And for him it was totally new."

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It was easy to see why Jaskin and Barbashev bonded. On the ice the chemistry was instantaneous. Jaskin had team-high totals of 46 goals and 99 points in 51 regular-season games playing alongside Barbashev, who was fifth on the team with 62 points in 68 games.

"We spent every day together for, I don't know, however long it was," Jaskin said. "That season was maybe 200 days, 250. It was good. We're good friends. Now I'm the happiest guy when he got drafted. I'm just going to try and help him again and keep going."

The 6-foot, 180-pound Barbashev, who had 25 goals and 68 points in 48 games for the Wildcats last season, got the boost he needed in his first North American season by playing with the 6-2, 196-pound Jaskin.

And one day, a general conversation eventually turned into reality when the Blues drafted Barbashev, who calls Jaskin his big brother.

"It was a great year with him," Barbashev said of playing with Jaskin in 2012-13. "I learned a lot from him. It was just an unbelievable time. Now we can be teammates again in a couple years.

"We were talking about that, but we were just saying to keep working hard and some day we would be in the NHL."

Jaskin accompanied Barbashev to Philadelphia for the draft, mainly to offer support and help Barbashev through the process. Barbashev had heard all the talk about teams tending to shy away from Russian-born players because of the opportunity to play in the Kontinental Hockey League or elsewhere overseas.

But when Barbashev wasn't picked in the first round he didn't allow it to bother him. He's eager to prove he wants to stay in North America.

"It's not my fault a lot of the guys before me did that," Barbashev said of returning to Europe to play. "I just didn't think about that. I forgot about it. I thought I was going in the first round, but that's hockey. You never know what's going to happen there. I just forgot about it after the first round and went back [to the hotel], got some rest and was focused for the second round."

Having Jaskin there to be a calming influence helped matters greatly.

"You never know. I was probably supposed to go in the first two [rounds] but I didn't go early," Jaskin said. "You're always [upset] or sad because you didn't go, but everybody knows it's not really a big difference if you go in the first or second round. You're just happy to go to a good organization, and I think he's happy to get that. He has the chance to improve himself right here, right now."

The Blues never believed Barbashev would be available with the third pick of the second round. When he was, the rewards far outweighed the risks.

"We knew there was a little bit of a Russian factor involved there," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said of Barbashev. "His determination and effort and who he is … we love him. We're really excited about getting him where we did."

It was an exciting moment for Barbashev and his friends and family when his name was called by the Blues.

"I just lost my mind," Jaskin said. "I couldn't believe it. It was excitement for one day. Now we're here to work and he just has to improve himself."

Both players are in St. Louis this week. Jaskin is getting in some conditioning work before training camp in September while Barbashev is taking part in the team's prospect camp.

Barbashev likely will be back in Moncton for another season. However, he and Jaskin have played together before and the possibility exists it could happen again in the NHL.

"It's just a dream and I think it's still pretty far away," Jaskin said. "I have to make the team this year. He's going to be on that level [in Moncton] and he's going to work hard. He has a chance to make it next year [in St. Louis]. He's close, but he has to get some weight. He's good right now, but he needs to get stronger. Everybody knows who plays in the NHL that it's harder than anything else."

Barbashev has plenty of motivation. Along with training with his best friend, he has 29 reasons to live in the moment and feel the first-round snub.

"For sure I'm [motivated]," Barbashev said. "I'm here now and I think I need one year to get stronger and bigger. I'll probably be ready then for sure. I think I'll be playing in Moncton next year. I need one more year.

"[Jaskin's] my big brother. We always keep in touch. It's great to have him here like this."

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— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers