Victoria Grizzlies land 2022 NHL draft prospect Eli Barnett

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
JUNE 11, 2021 10:05 PM

Eli Barnett says his favourite actors are Adam Sandler and Will Farrell. But his presence on the Victoria Grizzlies blueline will be no laughing matter for B.C. Hockey League opponents.

The six-foot-five, 210-pound defenceman, on early lists for the 2022 NHL draft, will be joining the Grizzlies for the 2021-22 BCHL season. The 17-year-old, who is committed to the NCAA Div. 1 University of Vermont Catamounts, is a native of Riverview, New Brunswick. He will make the sort of cross-country journey to the Island reminiscent of forward Alex Newhook, the former Grizzlies captain, who went in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft and is now with the Colorado Avalanche after winning silver with Canada in the world junior championship.

“The Grizzlies have a great reputation and I believe this is a great next step for me,” said Barnett.

He is not a stationary big man.

“I can move for a big guy,” Barnett said.

“I am a stay-at-home defenceman but I can create offence sometimes and I have a good shot from the point.”

His 2020-21 pandemic season was spent playing 22 games with six assists and 41 penalty minutes for the South Shore Lumberjacks of the Junior A Maritimes Hockey Leagues.

“It was a short season but it was at least good to be able to dip my feet in junior hockey,” said Barnett.

He is considered a prize recruit.

“Eli has size and mobility and is going to be an impact player,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.

Barnett has the most advantageous birthday in terms of the NHL draft. The annual cut-off date for any year’s draft is Sept. 15. Barnett was born Sept. 16, 2003. A day earlier and he would have been one of the youngest players eligible for this year’s draft. But he gets a whole extra year to prove himself.

“You dream of the draft. But if it doesn’t happen, there are still plenty of stories of players who have gone on to play in the NHL after not being drafted,” he said.

Barnett was also a Triple-A level baseball players but decided on hockey.

BCHL training camps open Sept. 17 with a normal season anticipated beginning Oct. 8.

ICE CHIPS: The league announced the BCHL Showcase, a one-stop shop for NCAA and NHL scouts, will take place Oct. 20-24 at the Chilliwack Coliseum. Each team will play two games, counting as one home and one away.

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