WINNIPEG — Colby Barlow He’s not thinking about prospects, but when the Winnipeg Jets look at the 18-year-old starting prospect, who they selected with the No. 1 pick. 18 in the 2023 NHL Draft, is believed to be future captain material.
“Coming off the Draft, I think it was an exciting time for our organization,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. “Obviously, our first round pick, we’re very happy with him and he’s going to have the opportunity in our organization to be great.”
Barlow brings NHL-ready size (6 feet, 190 pounds), and a shot to match.
“I’m only 200 feet, a power forward with goal scoring ability,” Barlow said. “I play hard, competitive, drive the net, play with some passion.”
In addition to having 79 points (46 goals, 33 assists) in 59 games with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League last season, Barlow had three goals in four OHL playoff games and four points (three goals, one assist) in six games for Canada that won a bronze medal in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Under-18 Championship.
“[His game] translates well to a hard-nosed team,” Cheveldayoff said.
Barlow has power and a quick release when shooting the puck, but it’s his use of body position and sudden change in stick direction that sets him apart from his peers.
“I can only get comfy with one certain shot,” Barlow said. “You just try and do everything you can on the ice, in different situations in the offensive zone. I watch a lot [Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, when he gets into spaces and he’s able to release the puck. All those things just kind of come together. … I think a lot of it is just practice, repetition, trying new things as well.”
The on-ice talent is clear, but Barlow’s mentality may be what Winnipeg covets most.
“When you sit down and talk to him you do get that feeling that he’s a pretty serious person,” Cheveldayoff said. “He’s serious about a lot of things in his life, he’s scholastic player of the year. He took great pride in that. Just a hard-nosed, greasy type of player, too, can score goals and goes to the hard areas to score them, too. Our guys are really excited.”
Barlow was selected to the OHL First All-Star Team and was named the OHL and Canadian Hockey League Scholastic Player of the Year.
Cheveldayoff himself was awarded the Western Hockey League’s top scholastic honor as a player in 1988, and the Jets have selected several players over the years who have won that award in Canadian junior hockey. Barlow is the latest, joining center Cole Perfetti (first round, 2020), defenseman Josh Morrissey (first round, 2013) and forward Adam Lowry (third round, 2011).
“One of the big things for us is leadership,” Winnipeg director of player development Jimmy Roy said. “When you’re drafted, you’re one of the better players on your team and you have a natural leadership role from the team you’re playing on. It’s easier for those players when they come into [development camp].”
Barlow says he needs to improve his skating and fitness, and conversations with the Jets staff have encouraged him to improve his game and play.
“There are so many great players in camp,” Barlow said. “Just learning from them and taking everything from these on-ice sessions and off-ice sessions. … I took a lot of good steps this year and I’m going to continue to bury my head and go to work and be the best player I can be.”