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Barrie came this close, wants more

by John McGourty
Last season, Tyson Barrie helped make Luke Schenn look good in his draft year. This season, Barrie did the same thing for himself, leading Kelowna Rockets defensemen in scoring and using those offensive skills to score the overtime goal that gave the Rockets the Western Hockey League championship.

Barrie, the son of former NHL player and current Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Len Barrie, is Central Scouting's No. 52-ranked North American skater for the 2009 Entry Draft. The Victoria, B.C., native had 12 goals and 52 points during the regular season and 4 goals and 18 points in 22 WHL playoff games. He had 4 assists in four games during the Memorial Cup, in which Kelowna lost the title game to the Windsor Spitfires.

In that contest, Windsor scored on its first three shots en route to a 4-1 victory.

"In a tournament like that, it's tough because one game is make or break," Barrie said. "For us, that was a heartbreaker. We didn't get the start we wanted. I think what you can take away from that is how bad it felt and you never want that feeling again.

"The younger guys on our team that are going to be back are going to have to get together at the start and remember how it felt because we want to make another run. It's something to keep in the back of your head -- it's much more fun to hoist a cup than watch another team do it.

"I can't tell you how painful it was to sit there and watch that. I've never been so close with a group in my life. We had grown so close together. To go through a season like that with our team and come so close and not get the job done, I think that's going to push us hard next year and in the years to come."

One game, though, can't undo the memory of an excellent season. Barrie did well last season partnering Schenn, the fifth pick of the 2008 Entry Draft who went on to an outstanding rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he fit well with Tysen Dowzak. Increasing physical maturity also played a big part in his development.

"I've put on 25 pounds in the past two years through weights, conditioning, nutrition and maturity," Barrie said. "I grew a little bit and filled out to 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, just working out and getting older."

Barrie was 11 years old when his father retired from the NHL and began coaching in the Juan De Fuca Minor Hockey Association. Barrie said his father helped him focus on how much he liked hockey and then directed him toward winning ways.

"Juan De Fuca is a minor-hockey association back in Victoria," Barrie said. "We don't get much recognition but we had a pretty good team when I played there, went to the provincials three years in a row. That's where it all started for me. I was born in Victoria. It's beautiful and I love it.

"My dad coached me all the way, for five years. He's always had the biggest influence in hockey on me, the way he played. He was a bit of a journeyman so he knew what it took to get there and he always pushed me harder. He was always the hardest on me of all the kids because he knew I had more and I think that's what helped me the most."

A journeyman's career was the last thing Len Barrie expected in 1990 after he had 85 goals and 100 assists for the WHL's Kamloops Blazers. Len Barrie played 184 NHL games over a 13-year pro career that mostly was spent in the high minors. A lack of speed made Barrie a first-line AHL player who often was relegated to energy lines on NHL teams.

Tyson Barrie respects his father's determination to have an NHL career.

"That's what I admire most about him, even in his business," Barrie said. "He never gives up. He's a guy who is always in your face and that's what I hope to take from him, his work ethic."

Barrie knows he's a work in progress, but he has a clear vision of where he needs to improve.

"I'm a smooth skater but I can get quicker in the first three strides," he said. "I'm a good backwards skater and my top-end speed can be improved. My passing is the best part of my game. That's something I pride myself on, the ability to get out of our own end and help our forwards, put it on their tape. It's something I'm going to try to do at the next level."

"The younger guys on our team that are going to be back are going to have to get together at the start and remember how it felt because we want to make another run. It's something to keep in the back of your head -- it's much more fun to hoist a cup than watch another team do it." -- Tyson Barrie
Undersized until recently, Barrie has learned finesse skills to strip opponents of the puck and to move opponents away from his goal.

"I prefer to take the puck away. That's something that I've had to learn, more containment rather than knocking guys over because I'm not the biggest guy," Barrie said. "But with more strength, I'm not afraid to get in there. But I'd rather punch the puck away rather than run him. That's something we stressed, being able to move guys, contain them, not knock them over and take a penalty. With bigger guys in front of the net, it's all about positioning and taking their stick away because they can't score with their feet. Positioning has helped me more than anything in my career."

Barrie credits Rockets coach Ryan Huska and his staff for giving him the opportunities to develop these past two seasons.

"My first year I was a guy who was worried about points and I think it showed in my game," Barrie said. "I sat down at the start of this year with our assistant coach, Jeff Finley, and he told me that if I wanted to be a high draft pick and develop into a good NHL player, I had to be better at both ends of the rink. I focused a lot on that this year and I think I came a long way. My coaches weren't afraid to put me out in important situations, the last minute of a game and things like that. I liked being able to shut down the top lines."

Barrie has played with some fine players in Kelowna, including Schenn, Jamie Benn, Tyler Myers, Mikael Backlund, Colin Long and Jesse Paradis. It's all part of playing for a great organization with a fine tradition, he said. Barrie said he was thrilled when Kelowna took him in the first round of the 2006 bantam draft.

"We have a winning tradition there and they push that on the kids," Barrie said. "They tell you how good it feels to win and they bring in alumni like Josh Gorges and Shea Weber. We get to meet them and they tell us how good it was. You know what? Going as far as we did this year, they weren't lying. We really want to win and when you win, everybody profits from it."

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