NASHVILLE — Orillia's Colby Barlow was selected 18th overall by the Winnipeg Jets at the NHL Entry Draft Wednesday night in Nashville.
The 18-year-old, who started playing hockey in Orillia before moving on to play AAA for the North Central Predators and then moved to the GTA, was all smiles as he exchanged hugs with his parents, brothers, family members and friends upon hearing his name called.
He says it was a "surreal" feeling being up on the draft stage holding the Jets jersey while standing beside Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Barlow said he was feeling nervous during the hours leading up to the draft as he sat with family and friends at Bridgestone Arena.
"It's your dream coming true," he said. "There is excitement, there are nerves, and you are all over the place in your mind. You never know where you are going to play ... so it's a special day."
As the name of each draft selection before him was announced, Barlow, a projected top-15 pick coming into the draft, says he wasn't fazed.
"It was just awesome to see all the other players get drafted ahead of me," he said. "They are all great players and everybody deserves what they got, it was just fun watching that."
Barlow was named the OHL and CHL Scholastic Player of the Year this season, which is something the Jets talked to him about during their meetings prior to the draft.
"I think it's pretty important to use your smarts and stay in school and do well," he said. "It's something I've always prided myself on."
The Owen Sound Attack captain says he is ready to get to work with his first professional franchise in his home country.
"It's super special to be able to play for a Canadian team," he said. "I'm a Canadian boy who grew up watching Saturday night games so it's surreal to be a part of the Winnipeg Jets."
Barlow thanked his parents, step-parents, the Bertucci family, and everyone who has helped him along on his journey on Wednesday night during his media availability.
Barlow, a six-foot, 190-pound winger, has played the last two seasons for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack. Last year, he was named the youngest captain in team history.
Barlow's agent, John Walters, says the first time he saw Barlow play in an Oakville tournament four years ago, he thought he was the top forward in his 14-year-old age group.
“He stood out for his goal-scoring ability, his compete level, his intensity, and just the way he carried himself,” Walters said of the talented winger. “He was really well-spoken, mature beyond his years, and he kind of had the whole package.”
While a lot of scouts look at Barlow as a pure goal scorer, Walters sees a more well-rounded player.
“I thought his play-making ability was very underrated,” he said. “Prototypical guys who can score goals, that’s all they can do, but Colby is really good at distributing the puck as well.”
Over the last four years, Walters says Barlow has evolved into a rugged winger who plays a 200-foot game; he says Barlow plays an intense, physical game.
"He just understands the game so well,” Walters said. “He knows how to find those soft areas to get open and receive passes. He doesn’t need a lot of time and space to get open and get that shot off quickly.”
During the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August of 2022, Barlow scored his first two goals of the tournament on the penalty kill.
“Whether you want him to kill a penalty, protect the lead, score a goal, or make a play at the end of the game, he’s that guy,” Walters said.
“His competitive nature and juices are amongst the elite of anybody that I’ve ever been around,” he said. “He doesn’t like to lose, and he does what it takes to win.”
Barlow first skated on to some people's radar when he was 10 and he played in the 2015 Brick Invitational in Edmonton, one of the country’s most prestigious events. He scored four goals — three were game winners — and added four assists in round-robin play. During the playoffs, he scored four more goals including another game winner.
Barlow was named the first star of the game four times during the 10-day tournament at the Ice Palace in the West Edmonton Mall, leading his Toronto Bulldogs to the championship.
When Colby played in the Brick Invitational, his entire class tuned in online to cheer him on, recalls his Grade 5 teacher at Monsignor Lee Catholic School, Janet- Lynne Durnford.
“Everybody was super-excited about it,” she said. “I’m not a huge hockey fan, but I’ve followed the direction of his career as much as I can ever since.”
She says Colby made friends easily and was well respected by his classmates and teachers.
“I think everybody knows that there is often a bit of a hockey culture,” she said. “Colby just didn’t have any of that stereotypical hockey culture attitude.”
This story was made possible through a sponsorship from Roy Micks of Team Micks.