Photo Credit: Natalie Shaver / OHL Images
Denver Barkey is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect and plays for the OHL’s London Knights. He grew up just north of Toronto in Newmarket, Ontario.
Prior to joining the London Knights, Barkey had played with the Markham Majors U14 AAA and the Toronto Titans U15 AAA squads. Due to the pandemic, Barkey never had his U16 AAA season, but the Knights front office was satisfied with what they saw in his OHL DY-1 season (draft year minus one). Barkey was selected by London with the #16th overall pick in the 2021 OHL Draft.
This season is Barkey’s second season with the Knights and he’s been rather effective at 5v5. The majority of Barkey’s 57 points have come at 5v5 (stats of March 26, 2023). He does such a good job of utilizing his handling to net separation in tight pressured situations to create more space for himself prior to shooting. That’s led to a few medium range goals this season. Barkey also is quick with his distribution and constantly completes one touch passes. He keeps his head on a swivel to make sure he knows exactly where his teammates are even when he doesn’t have possession of the puck.
D.O.B – April 27, 2005
Nationality – Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –174 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Barkey’s Style Of Play
Barkey plays a very high tempo game and he is very shifty. His crossovers and edge work allow him to change skating lanes on a dime and retain speed. Barkey’s mobility and edges come in handy when he has to navigate around pressure. He will pivot out of pressure and complete a quick pass on routine.
Check out the below clip in which he pivots out of pressure near the corner and completes a pass to Jackson Edward along the perimeter.
Here is an example of Barkey using his mobility to shift around an attacker at the offensive zone blue line. He wasn’t able to get the puck away from danger at the end of the clip, but there was no way that he was going to get away from three opponents in close proximity.
Not only does Barkey do a good job of using his mobility to get the puck around pressure, but he also does a good job of identifying and taking advantage of tight passing lanes when pressure intensifies. He will complete passes above and below the stick of the attacker when driving up the wing and looking to get the puck in the hands of an open teammate skating into the slot. He’s been able to key up quite a few London Knights goals this year by passing underneath or above the stick / triangle.
If he runs out of real estate and has a teammate in close proximity, he will look to complete a drop pass. That allows him to reset his own positioning to create a passing lane to high danger for his teammate to use. But, even if the teammate is slightly further back Barkey has no trouble completing a behind the back pass.
When on the forecheck, Barkey does a good job of keeping himself aligned to the oppositional puck carrier. He has good east – west speed thanks to his crossovers and that allows him to keep pace when the puck carrier looks to shake free. In closely contested loose puck battles, Barkey will extend out his stick blade to lift the attacker’s stick. He catches the attacker off guard and manages to secure the possession of the puck.
If his teammates are engaged in puck battles behind the net, Barkey looks to provide lateral passing lanes should his teammates win control of the puck. Usually, Barkey will look to redistribute the puck immediately and pass to a teammate in the low slot in hopes that his pass will lead to a high danger scoring chance.
When it comes to his shot, he has found the most success at 5v5 in the low slot. Barkey constantly looks to key up passing lanes to the low slot for his teammates to utilize. For instance, check out Barkey’s backdoor goal against Owen Sound from late February. Easton Cowan feeds the puck through a rather tight cross ice passing lane and Barkey puts a quick shot on net.
While most of his goals have come as a result of Barkey establishing open ice without the puck down low, he has capitalized on a few goals off the rush at even strength this season. His crossovers allow him to change lanes quickly when he spots an attacker looking to skate towards him at speed. The attacker is looking to force Barkey to skate towards low danger once entering the zone, but Barkey’s crossovers and edge work can net him the separation needed to get him into high danger. That has led to goals like this one.
Barkey does a good job of taking away time and space for an attacker looking to enter into the slot when he is further away from the attack. He will skate towards the attacker and once he gets in range he extends his stick out to completely take away space. When behind the red line and along the half-wall, he looks to put pressure on vulnerable attackers who has their back turned to him. Barkey then extends his stick out to make contact with the attacker’s stick to force the puck free.
Barkey does a good job on mop up (retrieving loose pucks) duty. Should an opponent dump the puck in or a turnover is created at the blue line and the puck breaks free, he is quick to the puck and quick to distribute the puck to an open teammate. Once he has possession of the puck, should he draw tight pressure, he will look to complete a give and go with one of his defensemen to get the puck away from pressure and start the rush. If the pressure is light and he spots a teammate open further down, once he grabs a hold of the loose puck, he will quickly fire a backhand feed to said teammate.
When defending against the rush in the neutral zone, Barkey usually skates at center ice so that way he can react to puck movement on either of the wings. Barkey does a good job of reacting quickly to puck movement and uses his crossovers to keep pace with the puck carrier. Once he has the pace he looks to close the door by eliminating space to the inside and forcing the puck carrier to skate along the boards.
Barkey does an excellent job of constantly providing potential passing lanes for his teammates to utilize as bail out passes should the pressure get too daunting. He will look for open ice down by the offensive zone blue line so that his defensemen can send him stretch passes that lead to odd man rush and breakaway opportunities.
When in possession of the puck and driving the rush, Barkey does a good job of finding tight passing lanes in transition and using them especially when under immediate threat. Should the pressure seem light, Barkey will either look to use his crossovers to shift lanes to avoid the threat or use his reach to shift the puck past the attacker. When he does look to extend the puck out with his reach, he goes from leveraging his crossovers to leveraging his forward stride. His forward skating stride extensions are short and thus when using his reach to push the puck around pressure he doesn’t have the escapability with his forward stride. But, he can use his crossovers to shake free.
As mentioned earlier on, Barkey is shifty and agile. He gains all of his power and acceleration through his crossovers. His crossovers power him up the ice when he is in possession of the puck and driving the rush. Barkey will lean on his edges to retain speed and then redeploy crossovers when looking to shift lanes away from pressure. When he doesn’t have possession of the puck, sometimes he will coast into each zone once presence in the zone has already been established by his linemates. But if he knows that he can get enough speed to react to a counter attack, he can quickly shift into gear with his crossovers.
In the transitional play section, I briefly touched on Barkey’s forward stride and some of the limitations that he has with it as a result. Since his extensions are short, he struggles with north – south speed and with the said sometimes he doesn’t have the separation speed when attacking the slot straight on. But, Barkey seems to be well aware of his limitations with his forward stride and knows that he can use his pivots and edges to shake free of pressure.
I believe that Barkey ends up on the wing at the next level in a middle six role.
Barkey reminds me a bit of Mats Zuccarello. He has the ability to navigate around pressure in every zone and can identify tight passing lanes to utilize on the fly. Barkey has a playbook full of tactics to get out of pressure and doesn’t hesitate. He executes.
While he has predominantly played center for the London Knights, I don’t see him playing center at the next level. He has shown that he can navigate around threats with his crossovers at the OHL level, but at the NHL level, he is going to need a power stride as well if he is to be deployed at center. If he can unlock the power stride, he could potentially play center at the NHL level.
March 31, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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