Morgan Barron wasn’t exactly New York’s most highly touted prospect when the Rangers organization traded him to the Winnipeg Jets two weeks ago.
Yet, the Halifax product doesn’t have the characteristics of an after thought.
At 6-4, 220-pounds, Barron has plenty of size but moves well. In his second assignment with the Jets on Saturday night, he showed some jam on the forecheck during limited duty on the fourth line against the visiting Los Angeles Kings, while playing just nine even-strength shifts for about seven minutes of ice time in a 3-2 defeat.
Out with Nikolaj Ehlers in the final frame, Barron helped orchestrate a quality opportunity for the talented Dane to even the score and then had a backhand try of his own.
L.A. goalie Cal Peterson turned aside both chances in tight and was unbeatable the rest of the way.
As the Jets playoff hopes fade, team priorities will inevitably shift to personnel reviews. Barron, just 23, wants to ensure his name factors into the conversation.
“The important thing for me was just to come in and try to play my best hockey,” Barron said. “I’ve always been a believer that if you’re a good enough player to be in the NHL, you’ll eventually find your way there. So, maybe the trade was part of that for me, and, like I said, I felt better and better every game I’ve went on with the (Manitoba) Moose, and then I felt pretty good in the game against Toronto the other night, as well. So, keep building on that momentum.”
Winnipeg shipped forward Andrew Copp and a sixth-round selection (2023) to New York at the trade deadline March 21 in exchange for Barron, two conditional second-round picks (2022, ‘23) and a fifth-round pick in 2023.
“I think anytime you get traded, anybody gets traded, there’s probably going to be a chip on your shoulder. I’ve kind of tried to carry that throughout my career,” Barron said. “I was a little bit of a late bloomer. People have overlooked me before. To me, it was just something else that I can carry with me and eventually, hopefully, prove those people wrong.”
Barron immediately joined the Moose and suited up for five AHL contests before being recalled by the Jets last week, debuting in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
He could be in the lineup again Wednesday night when the Detroit Red Wings come to town.
“I still feel like I’m on that track and getting closer every day,” said Barron. “I’m excited to be up here and getting an opportunity to prove myself with the Jets.”
His hasn’t been the most rapid of ascents.
Barron spent two years at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont.,, and then had a short stint with Sioux City of the United States Hockey League before going the American college route.
A late-round pick in the 2017 Draft, he played three seasons with the Cornell Big Red, leading the team in both goals and points in his final two seasons in Ithaca, N.Y.
“I think that really helped me develop,” he said. “(It) may not have been as quick as some other guys who go to major junior and then step right into the NHL in a couple of years, but I feel like I’ve been able to take steps every year and just really build each and every season and get a bit closer to that goal of being a real good player in the NHL.
Barron bounced between the NHL team and its AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, in his first two years as a pro. His offensive numbers weren’t bad. While he scored just once and set up another in 18 games with the Rangers, he popped in 19 goals in 46 games with the Wolf Pack.
The trade to a Western Conference squad came as a mild shock.
“It caught me by surprise a little bit. Any time you go into the deadline and a team like New York, it was pretty obvious they were trying to compete as quickly as possible so I knew there was a possibility, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it,” Barron said. “(It) quickly turned into excitement because it’s a new opportunity and it’s a fresh start for me. I’ve heard great things about the organization. I’ve played with some guys who have been here (Moose leading goal-scorer Jeff Malott) and they’ve all spoken very highly of everything about it.”
Malott and Barron spent three years together at Cornell.
While it’s been a small sample size, Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry has liked what he’s seen from the 2020 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player.
“There is lots of potential. Big guy, skates well, can get in on a forecheck, he can by physical, but he has skill. It’s a real nice blend,” Lowry said, prior to the tilt with the Kings. “The (7-3 losss in Toronto) didn’t allow us to play four lines as much as we’d like to, so he didn’t get quite as much ice time.
“We try to give him the basics of what we’re looking for. I want the emotion, and I’d rather have him make mistakes by being aggressive as opposed to thinking where he’s supposed to be.”
Interestingly, Barron changed NHL organizations the very day his younger brother, Justin, was also on the move. The Montreal Canadiens acquired Justin, 20, a former standout blue-liner with Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, from the Colorado Avalanche in a deal that sent forward Artturi Lehkonen to Denver.
When Morgan called home, his folks figured he was phoning to talk about Justin’s big news.
“When I originally called my mom and dad to tell them I got traded, they immediately picked up the phone and started joking about Montreal and French and my brother got traded there and I pretty quickly cut them off and was like, ‘I got traded, too.’” he said. “It was a whirlwind. I was texting my brother all day. He found out before I did, that trade went through earlier.
“It was pretty wild for it to happen to both of us, but I think in both of our cases it’s a fresh start with some opportunities. I think it worked out for the best.”
Assistant sports editor
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