Latta impresses at Caps Development Camp
At last year’s NHL draft in Pittsburgh, Riley Barber’s stomach churned as 166 names were called before the Capitals finally made him their sixth-round choice.
One year later, he says the snubbing lit a fire in his belly that fueled him into scoring more goals than any NCAA freshman in the country.
“My dad [former NHLer Don Barber] told me from Day One it doesn’t matter where you’re drafted, when you’re drafted,” said Barber, who is taking part in this week’s Capitals development camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
“It’s what you do after. I really took that to heart and wanted to prove to all the teams that skipped me that they missed a great player.”
Barber, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound right wing from Livonia, Mich., certainly made his mark in his first season at Miami-Ohio, recording 15 goals and 19 assists on a top line with sophomore Austin Czarnik and senior Curtis McKenzie. The trio combined for 38 percent of the RedHawks’ offense.
“It all fell into place at the right time,” he said, “and I was fortunate enough to bury a couple.”
Barber credits his success last season to the countless hours he spent working on his shot with Livonia native Mike Donnelly, who set an NCAA goal-scoring record in 1986 with 59 goals for Michigan State. Donnelly later went on to play for the Rangers, Sabres, Kings, Stars and Islanders.
“He’s pretty good guy to learn from,” Barber said.
For 90 minutes every day Barber would shoot heavy pucks, then switch to regulation weight pucks, working on his quick release and catching pucks off passes and firing quick shots.
The result was an outstanding freshman season at Miami and a spot on the U.S. national team that won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships.
Barber said he’s committed to playing at least one more season at Miami-Ohio and is leaving the rest up to the Capitals.
“We like the way he’s developing,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “Our approach with all the college players over the years has been we’re never going to come to you to talk to you about leaving school or anything like that.
“You go there and develop and play. If at any point you think you’re ready to be a pro and you want to talk to us about it then we’ll talk and we’ll tell you you’re ready to go or you’re not ready to go
“Stay where you are. That’s the way we approach this. We love the way he’s developed. He’s good there for another year and then we’ll see what he looks like at the end of next year.”
Barber said his goal this week is to make a lasting impression on the Caps’ coaches and scouting staff and prove that last season was not a fluke..
“I want to show them I came here to play and I’m ready to go and basically that I can be a top player at this camp,” he said.
“Nobody can really say when an NHL team is ready to take you. I’m taking one year at a time and see what happens at the end of the summer.”