“He’s always looking for the next shift to be better than the first.” Blasi said. “. . . Every time he goes on the ice, he’s always pushing the envelope.”
That “keeping my foot on the gas pedal” approach, as Barber calls it, has impressed Capitals executives, who were ecstatic to see him available when their turn came in the sixth round.
“It was a surprise to get a guy that low that good. Why he fell, I don’t know, but we’re glad he did,” said Steve Richmond, the Capitals director of player development who checks in with Barber once a week during the season.
“We’re not surprised at the year he had. The thing about him is that he keeps getting better. . . . Every game he got better. He’s better now than he was three months ago.”
Richmond said the Capitals see the 6-foot, 194-pound Barber as a potential “top-six” forward, a smart player who can “play in any situation.”
Though he’s a few years removed from bidding for an NHL roster spot, Barber almost certainly will face a decision whether to stay in college or leave early for the pros at some point. For now, he will return to Miami next year as a business major, taking things “one year at a time.”
Both his family and the Capitals are happy with that.
“Our approach with all the college players over the years has been ‘We’re never going to come to you and ask you about leaving school,’ ” Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. “We love the way he’s developing. He’s going [to Miami] for another year, and then we’ll see.”
If the time comes for Barber to leave early, Stacy said he’ll return and finish his degree.
“I really do feel like because we’ve lived the life of a hockey player, we know there’s life after hockey, and I wanted him to realize that and have the college experience,” she said.
“When he’s ready to go and they think he’s ready to go, I’m good with him going. I think we all are.”