With the 167th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals selected forward Riley Barber, an 18 year old from the United States Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of four USNTDP players selected by Washington in the middle rounds, Barber was just as happy as his teammates on now being a Capital.
“It was great, I was at home on the couch with my family and I got a call from my agent saying I was drafted,” Barber said in a phone interview Sunday. “Then I saw it on TV. It was great, a great feeling and very surreal to see your name up there with an NHL team you watched so many times.”
So what could Barber bring to the Capitals down the road? Only 18, the Pittsburgh native played only one season in Ann Arbor but is scheduled to play next year for the Miami (OH) Redhawks – a storied NCAA program that most recently made the National Championship game in 2010. And Barber, whose father played professionally, lacks no confidence.
“I think I have the potential to do whatever my team needs me for my team to win,” he said. “I can put pucks in the net, I can kill penalties, I can block shots, I can be an all around player that all teams need. Second line, third line, fourth line, whatever the team needs. I’m a team guy.”
Danton Cole, who coached him this past season, spoke to some media on Saturday in Pittsburgh, and raved about a player who he only got to see for one year but still made an impression upon him.
“Riley joined us after one year, this is the second year and he tied for leading goal scorer on the team,” Cole said. “He’s got a pro shot, another kid with a real high compete level and hates to lose, his battle level is real good. He does a lot of things, he’s kind of a pro winger, he gets pucks out, he understands the subtleties of the game, he’s got a good physical aspect to his game. As I said, he’s got an NHL shot, he’s a goal scorer.”
“He’s heady, finds net,” texted Matt Greason, another former coach of Barber’s at the USNTDP. “Love him. Gritty two way center. Blood and guts captain material and thinks the game like a pro.”
But like any draft pick, especially one in the 6th round, the 18 year-old has some work to do in order to be able to contribute at the NHL level. Greason says that he needs to get a little more “jump” to his game and work on his skating. However, it seems at the early stages that the Capitals may have gotten a steal at this position so late in the draft.
Specifcally, Barber wants to do whatever he can do make the team as soon as possible – despite that fact that he’s from Pittsburgh – because he thinks that he has been drafted into an organization that has their sights set on winning, all the way down.
“I think about the owner, and George McPhee, they loves to win and they will do anything to win,” he said of his new franchise. “That’s what I model my game after. I want to win, I hate losing. The fact that they drafted me, I think it’s a perfect fit. They are a very skilled team, and I think I’m pretty skilled. They like to score goals but they also have those grinders that like to hit every shift, and make plays and score goals. It’s a great team overall that I am very happy to be drafted by.”
“I watched the Capitals down the stretch and I think that they were great,” he added. “Dale [Hunter] had to do what he had to do. You know, all he wanted to do was win. And I think the guys that they drafted, I know we are all hard workers and I know that we all love to win. I think it was great for the Capitals to pick us up.”
The Capitals and their fans will get their first look at Barber and his American teammates at Development Camp in about two weeks, which Barber confirmed he would be attending Sunday.
Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals and the 2012 NHL Draft for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.