When you think about steals in the NHL Entry Draft, you likely think of late-round draft picks, but in a deep draft, some top-tier talents also get snagged in the later stages of the first round.
In what was an extraordinarily deep 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Jets selected Colby Barlow 18th overall from the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League.
A number of mock drafts projected Barlow to go in the middle stages of the draft, which is the neighbourhood of where the Attack forward was picked up by Winnipeg. When considering the position of the selection, it’s easy to envision the possibility of a steal at spot number 18.
In past years, there have been a number of players selected in the middle stages of the draft who have surpassed expectations, as well as the production of those picked ahead of them. In the past decade, there have been some valuable selections made at the 18th overall spot, including Thomas Chabot, Alex Tuch, and Tuevo Terravainen.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg has drafted 18th overall three times in the last eight years, selecting Logan Stanley in 2016, Chaz Lucius in 2021 and Colby Barlow in 2023. While the Jets haven’t gotten the production they were hoping for from Stanley, and Lucius is still developing, they’re hoping for better production and a quicker turnaround from Barlow.
In 2022-23, Barlow recorded 46 goals with 79 points in 59 games played with the Attack, leading his team in both categories. Over the past two OHL seasons in Owen Sound, the 18-year-old has posted career totals of 76 goals and 126 points in 118 games. Last year, Barlow was also named the youngest captain in the Attack franchise history and led his team to the playoffs.
Barlow can be defined as a sniper, possessing an elite shot that helped him become a top-five goal scorer in the OHL last year. The young prospect has a high hockey IQ and great vision, as he often finds open areas of the ice to wind up for a one-timer, which is especially effective on the power play, where he scored 13 goals last year. The 18th overall selection is also very hard to take off the puck and won’t shy away from physicality, which is a great skill to have at the next level.
As a captain in the OHL, Barlow has demonstrated his leadership abilities, which is something you simply can’t get enough of in professional hockey. He is a lead-by-example type of player on the ice with a strong work ethic and the stats to back it up, which is something NHL teams desire in their young prospects.
Some downsides to Barlow’s game are his lack of playmaking abilities, as well as his skating. While he’s an elite shooter with the potential to be an effective goal scorer in the NHL, his playmaking is something that hasn’t been up to par with the rest of his game. He’s also not the fastest skater on the ice, however, he makes up for this with a great work ethic and lethal shot. If he can improve on these assets of his game while continuing his development, it would be icing on the cake for the Jets organization.
Barlow is a highly talented player who should be expected to make the leap to the NHL in the next two or three years if everything goes as planned. When the time comes for him to make the jump to professional hockey, Jets fans could be in for a treat with a potential steal at pick number 18 in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.