-- Tyson Barrie
freely admits that his defensive game needed plenty of work when he embarked on his junior-hockey career five years ago.
As a defenseman, this presented a slight problem.
"I was just terrible defensively," Barrie told NHL.com. "I was a riverboat gambler; I took a lot of chances. But I've really worked on that part of my game since then and I'm going to try and keep improving."
"I want to make the team. I feel this is the first year where I have a legitimate shot to make the team, and that's really exciting for me. My goal is to go in and play like I can and show these guys that I deserve to be there." -- Tyson Barrie
Now 20 years old and one of the Colorado Avalanche
's prized prospects, Barrie is one of 19 defensemen listed on the team's 54-man roster for training camp, which opens Sept. 16.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound defenseman is coming off a 2010-11 season in which he collected 11 goals and 47 assists in 54 games while captaining the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League. He added 2 goals and 9 assists in 10 WHL playoff games and had a goal and 2 assists in seven games to help Canada win a silver medal at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo.
Barrie finished second to fellow Avalanche prospect Stefan Elliott
in balloting for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL Defenseman of the Year after winning the award the season before.
"It was a great year for me," said Barrie. "I got a chance to play in the world juniors, which was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was cool to be the captain of the Rockets, a great honor. We had a good team with a great group of guys. It was a fun year. It was disappointing to lose in the second round (of the playoffs), but it was a good last year of junior."
Barrie, who was a third-round pick (No. 64) in the 2009 Entry Draft, signed with the Avalanche in March. He realizes the competition for a place on Colorado's rebuilt defense will be intense.
Returning veterans include Matt Hunwick
, Erik Johnson
, Ryan O'Byrne
, Kyle Quincey
and Ryan Wilson
, and the Avalanche signed Jan Hejda
and Shane O'Brien
as free agents. Elliott, Cameron Gaunce
and 2011 first-round pick Duncan Siemens
are among the Avalanche's top defense prospects.
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"I want to make the team," said Barrie. "I feel this is the first year where I have a legitimate shot to make the team, and that's really exciting for me. My goal is to go in and play like I can and show these guys that I deserve to be there."
"I know I'm a young guy and hopefully I'll get the chance sooner than later. It is a big step. Obviously I'm not familiar with the NHL level, although I've been to a couple camps and I've seen the style of play. I think the biggest jump is that everyone is quite a bit smarter and stronger and faster. If I can adjust to that, I'll be fine."
Barrie finished his junior career as the highest-scoring defenseman in Kelowna history with 228 points (51 goals, 177 assists) in 256 regular-season games, but he is equally as proud of his improvement in the defensive aspect of the game. He gives plenty of credit for that growth to Jeff Finley
, who was a defense-minded blueliner for 15 NHL seasons and a former Rockets assistant coach.
"Coming out of minor hockey, you could kind of do whatever you wanted," Barrie said. "You could skate with it every time and I kind of tried to do that a little too much. Jeff Finley
taught me that if I wanted to play at the next level, I would have to pick my spots better. He said I can't be taking chances every shift. That's something that I learned in Kelowna and even in the world juniors. I took my defensive game even higher and I want to keep improving because the guys (in the NHL) are a lot bigger and faster.
"I like to create off the rush and be relied on on the power play, but I also want to be reliable in our own end and not be a guy they’re afraid to put against the other team's top line. That's something I've really worked on."
Whether he begins the season with the Avalanche or with Lake Erie in the American Hockey League, Barrie is ready to start a new chapter in his life.
"You go into junior as a 16-year-old and you're there for four or five years and you're kind of babied and taken care of," he said. "Your meals are cooked for you and now you're an adult and you're moving on to either play in the NHL or the AHL or wherever you end up. It's an exciting time. It's something I haven't experienced yet and I'm really looking forward to it."