Washington Capitals Prospect Watch: Riley Barber

Sep 21, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals firward Riley Barber shoots the puck on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack (31) as Hurricanes center Zach Boychuk (22) defends in the first period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The first year pro is enjoying a solid year with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

Coming into a matchup with Syracuse Crunch on Saturday, Washington Capitals prospect Riley Barber was enjoying a solid first professional season with the Hershey Bears. As he exited the ice after a 5-1 victory over Syracuse, his best moment as a pro was loudly replaying in his head, the pinnacle being a shower of hats raining down upon him after his first professional hat trick.

An acclaimed leader following three successful years as a Redhawk from the University of Miami (Ohio), Barber is continuing to follow a surprising path to the NHL. The 2012 NHL Draft is shaping up to be a great one for the Washington Capitals in terms of late round gems.

Drafted in the sixth round, 167th overall (following Connor Carrick, who was a fifth round pick for D.C.), Barber caught the attention of Capitals fans when he posted 39 points in 40 games in his freshman year at the University of Miami. He followed that up with 44 points in 38 games during his sophomore year, and completed his college career as a junior with 40 points in 38 games.

One of the more promising aspects of Barber’s young career was a patch that he was given at the 2014 World Junior Classic. Barber was named captain of Team USA that year, his second WJC appearance. Over the course of those two tournaments, Barber posted 12 points in as many games against the best junior players in the entire world.

Talent Analysis

Barber is an overachiever in every sense of the word. A sixth round pick back in 2012, he has exceeded expectations every step of the way. In three years at Miami (Ohio), he is consistently been one of the better scorers in college hockey and impressed on the international stage with Team USA. While Barber does not have outstanding physical gifts, he has scored consistently at every level and plays a strong two-way game. Barber also has the makings of a future leader, having captained the World Junior Championships team for the United States in 2014.

Future

After a highly successful career at Miami (Ohio), Barber appears to be ready to make the jump to professional hockey. His strong two-way game and consistent scoring should find him a regular spot with Hershey in 2015-16. Going forward, Barber will likely need at least another year of seasoning in the AHL before he is ready to challenge for a roster spot in Washington. At best, he could be a quality top six winger who plays a strong all-around game. At worst, he can be a very good third-line option.

Hockey’s Future

As a professional, Barber has 11 goals and 13 assists with the Hershey Bears in 44 games. While those are not eye-popping numbers, they are certainly impressive for a first-year forward on a team typically filled with seasoned veterans. It is usually a constant battle for ice time for young players in Hershey, so the fact that Barber is getting consistent playing time is a promising sign on its own.

Standing at six-foot, 194 pounds, Barber already has a solid frame to work with. Although he isn’t noted as a very physical player, his superb two-way play has been what stands out. He won’t be a point–per-game player as a pro, but he is more than capable of contributing offensively. Another key part of being an effective two-way player is discipline. Barber only has 14 PIM this season in 44 games, which is very impressive.

If Barber continues exceeding expectations, there is every reason to believe that he could be a very solid middle-six forward in Washington one day. At worst, he should be a good checking line winger.

Riley Barber has all the makings of a player that Barry Trotz would love on his team. Perhaps we won’t have to wait too long to see it come to fruition.