ST. JOHN’S, NL. — This series projecting players to lace-up for the St. John’s IceCaps will overlap on many individuals who may end up playing with the Canadiens all season, and Mark Barberio is no exception to that rule. The hometown Montreal native was drafted 152nd overall in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barberio had a decorated junior career playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Moncton Wildcats. During his tenure he accumulated 168 points and a plus-53 rating over 261 games. He also was named to multiple all-star selections and played in the Canada – Russia super series.
At 6-foot-1-inch and a shade under 200 pounds, Bergevin saw an opportunity to go after a 25-year-old defender who has shown the ability in the past to play a large role for his team. In 2011-’12 Barberio was a part of one of the most dominant AHL teams in league history. That year the Norfolk Admirals, coached by Jon Cooper, set a record in professional hockey for the longest winning streak. Winning 28 games in a row, a team which consisted of Cory Conacher, Dustin Tokarski, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, Barberio made a name for himself by winning the Eddie Shore Award for the top defenseman in the league. He finished that year in the top-20 in scoring (first among defensemen) with 13 goals, 48 assists in 74 games.
Barberio figures to compete for a spot for the Canadiens this fall. He’s a left-handed shot, and therefore falls behind the likes of Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov. Although Emelin likes to play a physical game, all three players fit a similar mold as Barberio, a guy who can move the puck well. For that reason, I had selected Jarred Tinordi at 6-foot-6-inch and much more of a defensive presence to slot in over Barberio on the left hand side, but would not be all surprised to see either of these two start with the Canadiens as a seventh man or injury replacement.
With Barberio signed to a one year, two-way deal, the Canadiens are giving a guy a shot to make a difference. He will need to clear waivers if sent down, so you can believe he will get every look in training camp, but with the top three left-handed shots set in stone you have to wonder which of Barberio or Tinordi will the Canadiens risk getting picked up by another team. Of course the Habs could always pull a last minute trade to shed some cap space on a guy like Emelin and keep both players with the big club. Time will tell, and it’s up to Barberio to make that a tough decision for Michel Therrien and company. If he does end up on the IceCaps this season, Sylvain Lefebvre can consider himself lucky to have a bonafide No. 1 d-man to help youngsters like Brett Lernout and Dalton Thrower learn the ropes.
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