Flyers analysis

‘Heartbreaking' moment fueled Flyers prospect Barkey's 102-point season

The Flyers' 2023 third-round pick took off after being cut from Team Canada's world junior roster

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Folks in player development keep a close eye on how prospects respond to adversity and pressure.

And the Flyers loved the way Denver Barkey responded.

The 2023 third-round pick was cut from Team Canada ahead of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship and lost his high-scoring teammate Easton Cowan, who made the team.

Barkey headed back to London with crushing news and much more on his plate. But as the world juniors tournament played out, he took over in the OHL, embracing the lead role with a sizable chip on his shoulder.

"That Cowan kid made the team, Barkey went back and I know he was thinking, 'Well, I have no one to play with,'" Flyers director of player development Riley Armstrong said Tuesday. "At that time, he realized he was now the guy and all these other players wanted to play with him. He actually took the biggest strides during that time, he put up a lot of points in that time on his way to get 100 points, which I think is a pretty big number to put up in the OHL, a guy with just his size in that league."

In six games without Cowan and Flyers prospect Oliver Bonk, who also made Team Canada's roster, Barkey went off for 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) as London won all six games. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound forward finished the regular season with 102 points (35 goals, 67 assists) and a plus-45 rating in 64 games. He then recorded 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) and a plus-10 mark in 18 playoff games to help lead the Knights to an OHL title.

Talk about a response.

"The world junior camp, it was a cool experience. To not make it, it was heartbreaking and it was a tough couple of days for me, it stung a bit," Barkey said Wednesday at Flyers development camp. "But you've got to move on and my goal was to prove them wrong and use that to fuel the fire. After I got cut there, I kind of used it as motivation for the rest of the season to prove them wrong and just continue to grow as a player and a person."

Did the Team Canada cut stay with him?

"Different times, I would just kind of think back on it," Barkey said. "I wouldn't let it bother me, but just let it motivate me and prepare me for games."

Barkey, who was drafted by the Flyers at the same exact pick as Patrick Sharp, is set for his fourth and final year of junior hockey in 2024-25. He seems poised to make Team Canada's 2025 world junior roster. As an undersized playmaker, gaining strength will be important every offseason.

"He got 100 points, I don't know how much more we can ask from him at the junior level, but maybe he expands and rounds out his overall game," Flyers general manager Danny Briere said in April. "The big thing would be, for him, the chance to play for Team Canada at the world juniors, that would go a long way toward his development.

"The one thing to remember with Denver is he has got a lot of work to do as far as getting stronger, more explosive. Being smaller in stature, he's going to have to have a high-end motor, so keep developing his strength and power will be key for him in the offseason."

In 2023-24, Barkey became an all-situation threat. He was tied with Cowan for the OHL lead in shorthanded goals (seven) and had 31 power play points (five goals, 26 assists). A coach like Dale Hunter — Keith Jones' former teammate — has given Barkey a good grasp of what it takes to play 200 feet.

"Dale there, my head coach, he taught me a lot about the defensive zone and just little skills like that, because you need to get trust from your head coach at the next level on the defensive side of the puck," he said. "I'd say a lot of that stuff is going to help [my game] translate."

Some adversity doesn't hurt, either. Barkey faced it and handled it.

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