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Moncton Wildcats defenceman Mark Barberio

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Moncton Wildcats defenceman Mark Barberio has a philosophical outlook as he gets ready for the 2008 National Hockey League draft, which takes place on Friday and Saturday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

"Whether you get picked or not, the thing that matters most is what you do after the draft," he said. "It's how disciplined you are and how hard you keep working to develop. I'm excited to see what's going to happen. I've spoken to 10 teams so far."

"If I don't get drafted, it will definitely be a disappointment but it's not the end. If I do get drafted, it's not the end either. Either way it's just the beginning because it's still a long road ahead and I have lots of work to do to reach the next level.''

Barberio was among the bright lights on a Moncton squad that finished second worst in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season. The 17-year-old sophomore was a top two defenceman for the club, he saw regular duty on the power play and penalty kill, and he logged at least 25 minutes of ice time per game.

He was labelled a defensive defenceman entering the season, but he showed there's an offensive element to his game. He finished second in Wildcats scoring with 46 points, including 11 goals, in 70 games.

"I was fortunate to get good ice time on a rebuilding team," he said. "I didn't go into the season thinking I've got to show what I can do offensively. I didn't have anything in mind for how many points I wanted to put up. I just wanted to work on my overall game."

Barberio is from Kirkland, near Montreal, and he grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan. International Scouting Services ranks him the No. 102 prospect in the world for the 2008 NHL draft. NHL central scouting lists him as the No. 134 prospect among North American skaters.

The Hockey News pegs him as the 59th best prospect in the world which would make him a late second-round pick. The magazine states that "Projections on Barberio are all over the map. Some scouts see him as a dark horse for late in the first round while others see him later in the third round."

The thing that could play against Barberio is that this is the deepest NHL draft for quality defencemen in several years. NHL central scouting projects that 33 of the 90 players taken in the top three rounds will be defencemen, including 15 of the 30 players who are chosen in the first round.

Barberio, 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, was the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2006 QMJHL draft. He was named to the league's rookie all-star team in 2005-06 while splitting the season between the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Moncton.

He continued to impress this season and was selected to play in the 2007 ADT Canada-Russia Challenge. The biggest knock on him is his skating and lack of foot speed, but for the second consecutive summer he's now working with a trainer to make improvements in that area.

"As a 17-year-old, Barberio logged a lot of minutes and played regularly against the opposition's top lines," said Boston Bruins scout Donnie Matheson. "He had a tough assignment and he faced the challenge very well. He's a solid two-way defenceman. He's got a terrific shot, he thinks the game well and you have to love his battle level. His character is excellent.

"He has a good skill set. Some people comment on his skating, but every player has things they have to improve on. He had the opportunity to play on the power play this season and he answered the bell well. There's a lot to like about Mark Barberio."

Calgary Flames scout Ritchie Thibeau compares Barberio to Anaheim Ducks defenceman Francois Beauchemin in terms of style of play.

"Barberio's got a good shot and good vision," said Thibeau. "A good character kid. Skating is one part of his game that's got to get better. Some people like him enough to probably take him in the second round and some people probably see him in the fifth round."

Barberio is Moncton's only player in the rankings for the 2008 NHL draft. Wildcats head coach Danny Flynn points out he felt bad about having to dump so much responsibility on the youngster.

"You usually choose to shelter a 17-year-old defenceman from the opposition's top 19- and 20-year-olds," he said. "We didn't have that luxury (with Barberio). Given our lack of experience on the blueline, he often drew assignments against the opposition's best players and I thought he responded very, very well.

"He was our second leading scorer even though I don't think he's an offensive defenceman by nature and he played key minutes on the power play and penalty kill. He worked hard to develop a good shot. He's like any young defenceman in that he still has to polish his game, but I think he has a chance (to play in the NHL). It's going to take a lot of work, but I think he's committed to do the things necessary to get there."

Barberio played regularly at a young age against the opposition's best players. That kind of responsibility can be viewed as a blessing and a curse.

"I think it did two things," said Flynn. "I think it enhanced his development, but for some scouts that are in and out of town quickly it probably exposed some things that he needs to work on. That's why as a coach you like to shield your young guys from mismatches, but I thought Barberio responded very, very well."

"He's a leader for our team and I think he's going to develop into one of the best defensemen in our league. It's his character that makes me feel really good about his future. He's a mature, level-headed young guy. He's a humble and team-oriented guy."

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