Denver Barkey’s connections with Philadelphia Flyers executives are everywhere.
Start with general manager Daniel Briere. Briere was undersized and Barkey knows it. Barkey was drafted in the third round (95th overall) in June. The Flyers list Barkey at 5-foot-9, 161 pounds.
“Brent Flahr [Flyers assistant general manager] and Danny Briere [general manager], when they have high hopes for you that’s really cool to see,” Barkey said.
“Danny had a successful NHL career given his size, as well. To have someone who I kinda play similar to have high hopes for me, that’s really cool and a honor.
“I grew up watching a lot of YouTube highlights and I watched a lot of him and Patrick Kane.”
According to Hockey Reference, Briere played at 5-foot-9, 174 pounds.
Lack of size doesn’t mean you can’t play successful NHL hockey, even if the league’s players seem bigger every season. Briere scored 307 goals and 389 assists in 973 games.
That’s not Barkey’s only Flyers relevant bond.
Patrick Sharp’s Guy
“I went up to the box [after being drafted] to meet all the staff and Patrick Sharp [Flyers special advisor to hockey operations and three-time Stanley Cup champion with Chicago] was there,” said Barkey, who will turn 19 in April.
“He came up to me and he was the same pick, same round as me [in 2001]. He kinda brought that up.
“I thought that was pretty cool and we’ve had a tighter bond ever since. He’s a knowledgable guy and someone that I listen to.
“He’s got a really cool story. Leaning on him when it comes to advice. I know he had struggles in his early years so leaning on him for advice has been huge.”
Barkey, of Newmarket, Ontario, was drafted so high because of his talent, not his connections. He played 61 games last season at London in the Ontario Hockey League. He scored 22 goals, 37 assists (59 points) and was a plus-18. Barkey and junior teammate Oliver Bonk were returned to London yesterday as the Flyers reduced the roster by five players. Neither move was a surprise.
He did not participate in Development Camp in July because of an ankle injury. He played in the Flyers’ first preseason game Monday against the Devils. Barkey is part of what looks like an impressive 2023 draft class and a prospect pool that has drawn attention from experts.
Barkey’s goal this summer?
“Putting on weight, getting stronger, that’s been my focus,” Barkey said. “Ever since I got drafted to London, I’m getting bigger, stronger and being able to play with bigger guys and just being able to fit in being a smaller guy.
“I’m a smaller guy. I’m going to need to be strong on my feet, win puck battles. You’re on a shorter leash as a smaller guy getting pushed around if you’re not winning puck battles. I think they’re a little bit harder on you as opposed to a bigger guy.
“I feel like every time you come to Philly you kinda want to prove what you can do. Show the improvements you’ve made from the previous summers or throughout the season. I’ve taken each day trying to try to prove myself and play be a pro every day.”
Flahr sounds like a big fan of the little man.
“Barkey’s smaller and he’s got a long ways to go to get where he needs to physically but he’s a really good skater, extremely smart,” Flahr said.
“You saw him in those games against bigger, older competition. There’s zero fear in his game. He’s got a lot of swagger.
“He’s a really good junior already but it’s exciting to see where his game is going to get to when he’s able to put on 15, 20 pounds and become a man.
“You see him off the ice he looks like he’s too young to be here. He’s 12 years old. But a great kid, got a smile on his face.
“He’s a little bit like TK [Travis Konecny] as far as he loves to play the game, loves to be at the rink. Really a good kid to be around.”
Barkey more than held his own against the Rangers in the Rookie Series.
“I felt like Barkey played really well for his size,” said Phantoms coach Ian Laperrière, who coached the Flyers’ rookies.
“He’s still young. Very poised with the puck. He’s got a bright future.”
Whether Barkey becomes an NHL player will fall on his shoulders. Given his talent, he’ll be an interesting player to track through juniors.