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On the Wings of Tomorrow

UMass-Lowell's Barton learning on and off the ice; Kotkansalo fills in at center for BU and more in the November prospect report

by Bob Duff @asktheduffer / Special to DetroitRedWings.com

The coaching staff of the UMass-Lowell River Hawks describe defenseman Seth Barton as an old soul.

"I really enjoy talking with Seth," UMass assistant coach Andy Jones said. "I really look forward to our conversations.

"You can have an intelligent discussion with him on hockey, on school . . . on just about any subject. He's wise beyond his years."

Just 20 years old, Barton's big-picture view of the world also enables him to be a visionary on the ice.

"Some guys, when they have the puck, they can see the next pass after the one they're going to make," Jones explained. "Seth can see the next pass, and the pass after that.

"Not many players have the vision to see the game that far ahead. That's an area where we don't coach him. He just has that gift."

Perhaps the Red Wings scouting staff was experiencing a similar sort of far-reaching vision when they selected Barton with Detroit's 81st pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft from the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.

One thing is certainly clear -- when it comes to his work on the ice, his studies in the classroom, even down to his favorite sports team and the athlete he most admires -- Barton is a young man who thinks both creatively and outside the box.

Fourteen games into the NCAA season, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Barton is tied for second on the team with a plus-5 rating. His 25 shots on goal lead all River Hawks defensemen.

Barton has accounted for 1-4-5 totals in 14 games but all five points have come in UMass-Lowell's last seven games.

"For me, the way I play my game is I like to push the offense," Barton said. "So if points follow from that, it means that I'm doing my job in the D-zone and then I'm helping my team out, whether it's scoring goals or helping out my teammates.

"The emphasis on points, people will always look at them to judge. I think with certain people it can mean that their play is improving, or their play is up to standard. If I'm playing well in the D-zone, that usually influences the plus-minus or the more shots on goal."

Barton's offensive output has coincided with a run of success from a team standpoint. UMass-Lowell is 4-1-3 over its last eight games.

"I think we're finally starting to stick to playing to our identity, which is just consistently playing hard and fast and making it hard on the other teams," Barton said. "That's shown in the last few weekends with the success we've been having in Hockey East, which is never easy."

To say that Barton is a young man who is driven to succeed would be an understatement. In all aspects of life, he strives every day to be better than he was.

Barton craves challenges, welcomes responsibility and is forever seeking out self-improvement.

"I like to say I'm an offensive defenseman," Barton said. "I've always had the instincts to want to join the forwards and make an impact in the offensive zone."

Whether his team is leading late in the game, or seeking out that tying tally in the dying moments, Barton wants to be the guy who gets tapped on the shoulder by the coach and is sent over the boards to get the job done.

"It's also one of my goals to become a complete, two-way defenseman that the coaches can rely on, whether it's stopping a goal in the last couple of minutes of the game, or if it's we're down a goal and we're looking for something," Barton said. "I think that's the main thing I'm working on this year, just completing my all-around game."

Barton carries that desire for improvement and keeps his mind open to new ventures whether he's on the ice, in the weight room, or attending classes. He craves to learn, to improve.

"He wants to get better," Jones said.

In Barton's world, the three Rs are responsibility, reliability and respect. What he wants -- to play in the NHL -- won't be easy to achieve but that's what makes the challenge all the more enthralling to him.

"It's definitely tough but it definitely makes it easier when you have so much passion for the game, every day waking up to improve on the ice," Barton said. "As well, I'm going to school. That was one reason I chose the college route.

"I stay busy, whether it's doing school work or just being around my teammates, whether it's in the rink or in the classroom. Yes, there are distractions but I think when you just set your goals to team success and personal goals to follow, I'd say it's pretty easy to go day to day just working your hardest.

"That's something that I've learned having courses, having exams. At the same time, you're having big conference games. Time management is definitely something that you've got to be on top of."

Barton doesn't seek out the easy pass in the classroom, either. He's a second-year business major, hoping that one day, he might be able to utilize the skills gained in business acumen to perhaps negotiate his own pro contracts.

"I've always been interested in the business side of things," Barton said. "Obviously, going through hockey, it's also a business. Just learning things along the way, and if I can be learning, whether it's post-hockey, or I'm able to use what I've learned here to further my career, that's what I'm looking for.

"It's still second year, so you haven't really narrowed down to the nitty gritty kind of stuff. It's quite interesting. I'm enjoying it."

That same level of inquisitiveness also impacted Barton during his one season of junior hockey with the Smoke Eaters.

In 1961, the Smoke Eaters, then a senior club, represented Canada at the World Championship. With future Red Wings coach Bobby Kromm behind the bench, they won the world title. Canada wouldn't again be world champions until 1994. That was thanks to another future Red Wing. Luc Robitaille scored the shootout winner for Canada in the gold-medal game.

Trail's link to history was not lost on Barton, especially considering Cominco Arena, where he played for the Smoke Eaters, was also the home rink for those 1961 world champs.

"You're surrounded by history and you really understand it, because of the way the community gets around the team there in Trail," Barton said. "The year I spent there was an incredible hockey year, as well as an incredible year of meeting new people and going to a different town. I really enjoyed it.

"The history, from that world championship to the arena, it's really cool to see. I'm still keeping track of them."

Barton's appreciation for tradition, as well as his respect for those who aspire to greatness, are also evident in his choice of favorite athlete and favorite team.

His favorite player has likely never donned a pair of skates. It's Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who's played for legendary teams including Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

His favorite team is also not what you might expect from a Canadian hockey player. It's the NBA's Boston Celtics.

"Growing up, I always found myself playing as many sports as I could," Barton explains as the reasoning behind his unusual choice for sporting idol. "I've always looked up to well-respected, successful athletes. At a younger age, I spent a lot of time playing soccer and Cristiano Ronaldo was that guy.

"And then you have the Boston Celtics, the history with them as well, the success story that they've had. Playing different sports my whole life, I've looked to different areas, whether it was motivation, or idols, or such. I think my game is well-rounded because of it.

"Playing different sports has brought different areas of my game into play."

Playing hockey is bringing Barton along on an all-expense paid trip across North America. He's seen the west coast with Trail, the east coast with UMass-Lowell, and now, the midwest with the Red Wings.

"That's one thing I love about hockey is the travel," Barton said. "With college, with teams being all over, it's cool to travel and see different parts of the world. "It's going to be cool spending more time in the midwest."

STEPPING UP FOR THE TEAM: When the Boston Terriers were racked by early-season injuries, Kasper Kotkansalo took one for the team and rode to the rescue.

The Terriers lost three centers to injury right off the bat to start the NCAA season. Junior Ty Amonte is out for the season and junior Logan Cockerill is sidelined for three months. When sophomore Jack DeBoer joined them on the shelf, coach Albie O'Connell found himself without enough men in the middle.

Enter Kotkansalo. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior (71st overall, 2017) shifted from his usual role as a stay-at-home defenseman and slotted in as BU's third-line center.

Tweet from @TerrierHockey: The Orono area has been dealing with power issues all day due to strong winds. Fortunately, Alfond Arena is one of the few buildings on campus with power and as of right now, the game is still on.Here's our lineup. #GoBU pic.twitter.com/CMmja19QoU

The rash of injuries has also made an impact on Detroit's other two prospects with the Terriers.

Freshman Robert Mastrosimone (54th, 2019) is now playing left wing on BU's top line. Fellow frosh Ethan Phillips (97th, 2019) is at right wing on the second line.

SETKOV SIGNS CONTRACT EXTENSION: Danish defenseman Malte Setkov (100th, 2017) was drafted as a long-term project by the Red Wings, and he's slated to continue that development for at least two more seasons with Sweden's Malmo RedHawks.

Tweet from @antonj85: Malte Setkov g��r sin f��rsta po��ng f��r Kristianstad, 2:a assist p�� Kristianstads 2-2 kvittering. #Hockeyallsvenskan #KIK #LGRW pic.twitter.com/fMAdwXqHvw

Setkov, 19, signed a two-year contract extension that would keep him with the Swedish club until the end of the 2021-22 season.

"For my continued development this fits me perfectly," Setkov told MalmoRedHawks.com. "I know that the coaches here will help me become a better player."

Setkov played with the Danish national team in the three-country MECA Hockey Games against Norway and Austria. The tournament was held in Lørenskog, Norway.

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