This past season was a certified breakout campaign for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. He was not a regular in the lineup at the start of the year, though he soon thereafter became one, so he only played in 64 of Colorado's 82 games during the regular season. In those 64 games, he had 13 goals and 25 assists, which is major offensive production for a defenseman, especially one who is not on the team's top defensive pair. And thanks to good coaching, he was able to rack up those points without developing a problem of getting burned defensively when he jumped up into the offensive zone.
Barrie is becoming what the team envisioned he would become when they drafted him in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft. He is a defenseman with excellent awareness on the ice and he possesses a forward's offensive skill. He has even officially lined up as a forward a few times when the team was missing several forwards due to injury. This makes him a highly versatile player who can make life very difficult for opposing teams when he joins an offensive rush.
While the numbers are impressive, what made last season truly special for Barrie was that his goals came at moments when the Avalanche desperately needed a big play. Five of Barrie's goals were scored in the waning minutes of regulation or during overtime. It can be definitively stated that without Barrie's heroics, Colorado would not have won the Central Division (recall that they finished only one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues). He has come into his own, and his career has only just begun.
One year ago, Barrie was not in Colorado's regular lineup. Now he is the best offensive defenseman on the team, and a true top-4 defenseman. The top pair remains Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda, but we should expect to see Barrie settle in on the next pairing, though it is unclear who his defensive partner would be. In any case, Barrie is always an X-factor in any game, and it is fair to say that he has become a part of the Avalanche's core of young star players, joining the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon, and Semyon Varlamov. Like those players, Tyson Barrie is already a very good player who is only going to get better in the seasons to come.
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