Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Barbashev setting sights high

2014 second round pick likely destined for AHL Chicago 
despite junior eligibility; coming off 95-point season with Moncton

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- When Ivan Barbashev took part at Blues training camp last year, he did so with the intention of soaking up as much as he could from coaches and experienced players who have been there, done that.

As a bright-eyed 18-year-old who came in with a bit of deer-in-headlights mindset, Barbashev, the Blues' second round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, wasn't babied during his time in St. Louis. Coach Ken Hitchcock threw him right into the fire, playing him with David Backes and T.J. Oshie so he can get the taste of NHL life immediately knowing full well the Moscow, Russia native would get quite the reality check.

There were times when Barbashev, a pick the Blues acquired along with Magnus Paajarvi in a trade that sent David Perron to Edmonton, was overwhelmed playing with grown men. After all, coming from the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League proved to be a monumental difference.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues have high hopes for Ivan Barbashev (pictured), and Barbashev
has high hopes for himself after attending his second prospect camp.

But the difficult learning curves certainly helped Barbashev after he returned to the Wildcats.

"For sure it helped me. Being around professional players who have played for many, many years, it was great to have a chance to play with Oshie and Backes," said Barbashev, who had 45 goals and 95 points in 57 games for Moncton last season before following it up with 13 goals and 24 points in 16 playoff games. "Those guys just helped me a lot. Every time I was making a mistake or something, they were telling me or helping me every time. They helped me on what to do, what not to do."

Barbashev, a center/left wing, took what he learned and parlayed it into a tremendous season. He's still innocent-looking at 19 years old after attending his second Blues Prospect Camp recently, but it is evident he's progressed to the next level.

"I'm just feeling more comfortable than last year, that's for sure," Barbashev said. "I wasn't ready for camp last year because I got here and in Russia, there was just no chance to skate anywhere, so it was pretty hard. This year, I'm spending at least a month, month and a half here. I'm going to keep doing this and improve myself."

Barbashev, a left-handed shot who called his season in Moncton a "good year," completed his third season of playing in the QMJHL with a combined 88 goals and 225 regular season points in 173 games. The Russian Hockey Federation selected him to participate in the World Junior Championships last season, his second stint at the WJC. 

"It was just unreal," said Barbashev, who hads three goals and six points in seven games. "That's a time that I will never forget. Those memories will actually be forever. ... It was a good tournament but some games were not really good. But most of the time, I played good."

Barbashev came in smallish in figure last season but has added 10 pounds of muscle and is listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds after checking in at 180 last season.

"I've been here (in St. Louis) for maybe like a month now training in the gym every day," Barbashev said. "Everyone's saying I got a little bit bigger. Even I can see I got bigger, but I know I have to get more bigger and bigger."

Barbashev has been placed in a pedestal with 2014 first round pick Robby Fabbri. The two are getting the notoriety that both rightfully deserve. Barbashev is making sure he pulls his weight and gives the organization the insight that it has solid prospects at the forward level.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ivan Barbashev (front) takes part in a drill earlier this month at the Ice 
Zone during prospect camp. Barbashev is coming off a 95-point
season in the QMJHL.

Barbashev, who is eligible to return to the QMJHL for one more season, has set his sights high but more than likely, will get the taste of pro hockey with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"I'm coming back August 1st," Barbashev said. "I'm going to train here again. I'll be working, working, working and going to give myself any chance to make this team.

"I'm just working on things that will get me ready for the next level. I should at least go to Chicago to learn how to play professionally."

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