Scouting hockey players is a tough job. With the amount of spots available on every team, it’s hard for some talented players to really get a good chance with their own team. As a result, some really good players may not be able to make the best impact to those deciding their future, which could result in them having no hockey-related future. For some, such as Jesse Barwell, the two years that most players have after starting their Ontario Hockey League career isn’t enough, but when they get going, they can really shine to the best of their ability.
Barwell, the son of former OHLer Jay Barwell and Grandson of 10 year CFL and Grey Cup winning Saskatchewan Roughrider Gord Barwell, has had a rocky junior career so far, but finally, things are really starting to look really good. Before becoming a junior hockey player, however, Barwell was one of the biggest stars for the Oakville Rangers AAA Minor Midget team, one of the most successful MM teams to ever play.
During the 2012-2013 OMHA season, the Rangers went on to win the Peterborough Tournament of Champions, the SCTA title and the OMHA Championship before going on to win the biggest prize of all, the OHL Cup. Playing on a team with potential NHL Draft Picks Matt Spencer, Matt Luff and Brett McKenzie, Barwell finished third in team scoring with 79 points in 71 games while winning just about every faceoff.
His play with the Rangers earned him a short stint with the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior A Hockey league. Playing against Major Junior aged prospects, Barwell put up two points in three games despite playing in a rather conservative role with the club. Barwell wouldn’t head back to the OJHL after the season was over, however, as the 5’11 would instead sign with the Mississauga Steelheads after getting drafted in the second round of the 2013 OHL Priority Selection draft.
Barwell’s rookie season wasn’t too memorable. Playing on a week Mississauga squad, the young 16-year-old wouldn’t garner much ice time as a bottom six centreman. After it was all said and done, Barwell managed to record just four goals and 17 points to go along with his scoreless performance with Team Canada’s Ontario team at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Barwell really turned his junior career around mid-season in 2014-2015 following his trade to the Saginaw Spirit. In November, following a few months of so-so action for the Oakville, ONT. native, Barwell was sent from Mississauga to Saginaw along with Greg DiTomaso and three draft picks in exchange for Winnipeg Jets prospect Jimmy Lodge.
It was a welcome move for Barwell, who would play the best junior hockey of his career after getting a more prominent role with the Spirit. In just 44 games, Barwell posted 11 goals and 28 points, seven more points than the 21 he accumulated in a season and a half of action with the Steelheads. A big reason why Barwell was so successful was thanks to playing with Mitchell Stephens, a very underrated prospect with the ability to put up solid offensive numbers on the first line. No longer was Barwell getting under ten minutes of ice time a game. Now, he was a key player used in key situations.
Throughout his hockey career, you always know what you’re going to get from Barwell. A consistent player, Barwell puts in the same amount of effort into his first shift that he does in his 24th shift. Barwell, who’s has always been a popular player on and off the ice, is a smart, skilled forward with the ability to make some mind-blowing dekes before potting an important goal. Barwell is an excellent skater, and after making you check for your pants after getting past you, his dangerous shot will likely find its way into the back of the net. You can even use him on the power-play or in a short-handed situation, both of which have proven to be strong points of Barwell’s game.
Next year, odds are that Barwell, Stephens and top scorer Dylan Sadowy will all be back to form a scoring line for the Spirit once again. By 2015-2016, Barwell will be counted on more and more thanks to be a more experienced prospect and may finally be able to live up to the hype created during his Minor Midget days. NHL teams have likely kept an eye on him since his trade, and with the way the second half of his season went, look for teams to maybe take a flier on him near the bottom half of the draft.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter @StevenEllisNHL.
Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images