Bearded Barlow shows off strong leadership skills during clutch draft season
As he gets set to attend the National Hockey League draft later this month, Colby Barlow already looks like a player ready for the next level.
"The summer of Grade 8 before going into Grade 9, it started to come in lightly," the 18-year-old said of his beard. "I got a head start shaving it and it started coming back thicker than I thought, and here we are."
The Owen Sound Attack winger smiles while confirming teammates are a bit jealous.
"A lot of guys laugh about it in the room," he said. "My roommate tries to grow a better moustache than me and it hasn't happened yet so, Gavvy, keep working on it, buddy."
Tough break for Gavin Bryant on that one.
Barlow, who grew up a Leafs fan in Orillia, Ont., even gets likened to Toronto centre Auston Matthews, who sports hockey's most recognizable moustache at the moment.
"People joke about that all the time," he said. "I get the comparison, so it's kind of funny."
The 6-foot, 190-pound Barlow insists Matthews' moustache didn't inspire his own. Matthews' shot, though, is a different matter.
"He's got a pretty good release and you can learn a lot off him," said Barlow, who is coming off a 46-goals-in-59-games campaign.
During a conversation with TSN, Barlow recapped his explosive Ontario Hockey League season and explained what makes him a good leader and a clutch performer. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
TSN: What's one thing you learned watching the Matthews shot?
Barlow: "First and foremost, the way he can get into scoring spaces and then get it off so fast. It's pretty impressive with the velocity on it."
TSN: How did you turn your shot into such a potent weapon at a young age?
Barlow: "Working on it after drills and after practice time is done. It's key to keep working on it and picking your spots and making sure you're hitting them."
TSN: What's your favourite type of shot?
Barlow: "Ah, I think receiving it on the flank and curling it in and letting it go. It's pretty fun to do and I practice it a lot."
TSN: Your longest goal drought was five games and it happened just once. What allowed you to be so consistent?
Barlow: "Just taking the time in practice to make sure I'm doing all the right things there and then just trying to apply it to the games."
TSN: You led the OHL in game-winning goals with 12. What makes you a clutch player?
Barlow: "I just like those moments. I love the butterflies. I love the pressure in the game and the intensity. It all kind of feeds me to play at the top of my game. I love those moments."
TSN: You love the butterflies and nerves? How does that work?
Barlow: "It's just that extra little push that gets you that extra stride or extra shot or something. It fuels you a little bit more."
TSN: You didn't just score goals this season, you also killed penalties. How did you earn that role?
Barlow: "I learned that more so in the summer at U18s. I started killing penalties there and it translated into the season. Just trying to be more of a complete player and it worked out great this season."
TSN: What's the key to being a good penalty killer?
Barlow: "Just sacrificing your body and trying to get the puck out and getting 200-foot clears."
TSN: You wear the 'C' for Owen Sound and also wore it at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game where Connor Bedard was the other captain. What makes you a good leader?
Barlow: "Just leading by example. Just doing all the right things at 110 per cent every single day on and off the ice. Just being a good person."
TSN: Who is your leadership role model?
Barlow: "Sidney Crosby. He's a fantastic leader. The way he does things and handles himself is just incredible. The way he presents himself and the person he is before a hockey player is pretty incredible."
TSN: Who is your role model when it comes to style of play?
Barlow: "I don't really compare myself to a certain guy. I like to shoot the puck like Matthews. I try to get into the dirty areas in front of the net like John Tavares tipping pucks. I like to play a hard, skilled game like J.T. Miller. All those guys I like to watch and take things from."
TSN: You finished with a 93 per cent average in Grade 12 and received the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL's Scholastic Player of the Year. How'd you balance school and hockey so well?
Barlow: "It's all about time management. It's pretty tough on the road, three-day trips, to maintain all your homework and stuff. It's about trying to get it done as best and as fast as you can before you leave it all to pile up and then you have no time to do anything when it's all crammed into your tight schedule throughout the year. Getting it done in class and getting it done right when you get home is pretty key for that."
TSN: What's your favourite subject?
Barlow: "Probably business. I like learning about international business. It was pretty cool. I'm not a math guy at all. Totally not a math guy so I picked it up with the business stuff."
TSN: What did you take away from the experience at April's under-18 World Championship in Switzerland?
Barlow: "That was a real fun tournament. It's always an honour to represent your country and it was pretty cool to see how everyone's developed over the year. The competition was so high, and the pace was so fast."
TSN: Was there a teammate or opponent who caught your eye?
Barlow: "Honestly, a teammate, [Macklin] Celebrini. I know he's an '06 [birthday] but, man, that kid can play at such a young age already. He's a thick kid. He lays the body. It's pretty impressive to watch."
TSN: Our director of scouting, Craig Button, has you at No. 10 on his list of top prospects. What would it mean to be a top-10 pick on June 28 in Nashville?
Barlow: "It would be pretty cool. It's what I've been working for my entire life. It's my dream. To be drafted anywhere, it's just going to be a special moment, for sure."
TSN: How have you dealt with the draft-year pressure?
Barlow: "Live in the present. Don't get caught up in all the rankings and all this and that. Put the phone away and just play hockey. Play the game you love."