DENVER | Tyson Barrie was 27 years old. Cale Makar was 20 years old. Barrie had served as the offensive general of the Colorado Avalanche defenseman squad for several seasons, while Makar aspired to fill that role.
• Read also: Sports betting: little love for the Oilers
• Read also: Draft 2022: the Canadian will not shun the Russians
There was a veteran and a rookie. But there probably wasn't room for both players, especially not two right-handers. Barrie and Makar haven't shared the same locker room for too long. They did it for less than a month during the 2019 playoffs.
Makar, who was fresh out of the University of Massachusetts, had found the Avalanche in the heart of the playoffs. The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft made his NHL debut in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Calgary Flames in 2019.
Three years later, Barrie remembers it vividly.
"I knew I was in trouble as soon as I got on the ice with him for practices," Barrie said with a smile in his voice. I told myself that I was to leave here (Colorado). He was exceptional. He skates so well, he moves the puck well. »
“He made his playoff debut against the Flames. He defended his territory well, he won his duels one on one and he had scored in one of his first appearances in his first game. He was impressive from the start in addition to being a good young boy. I'm not surprised at how dominant he is. It's impressive to watch him play. We will have a big challenge ahead of us to slow it down. »
Against Mike Smith
Barrie has a good memory. Makar did score his first NHL goal in his first game, a playoff game to add to the feat. In the first period, the fast defender had thwarted Mike Smith, at that time with the Flames, taking advantage of a pass from Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche won 6-2 against the Flames.
In the second round of the playoffs, however, Barrie and Makar had suffered elimination in seven games against the San Jose Sharks. A few weeks later, the Avalanche traded Barrie to the Toronto Maple Leafs (July 1, 2019) in a pact that notably involved center Nazem Kadri.
Three years later, Barrie is no longer in Toronto. He only played one season for the Leafs. But Kadri is still with the Avalanche and Makar is one of the best defensemen in the NHL.
In Edmonton since last year, Barrie reunited with his old team on his way to the Western final.
"I've been an Oilers player long enough not to find it strange," he said. I'm ready for a good battle against the Avalanche. »
An exceptional defender
Now 30, Barrie had another very respectable season with the Oilers, recording 41 points (7 goals, 34 assists). He added 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in his first 12 playoff games. If he is still producing at a good pace, he is far from the numbers of Makar, the young sensation.
The Avalanche's number 8 finished the year with 86 points (28 goals, 58 assists) in 77 games. He is also dominant in the playoffs with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 10 games.
"Cale is a special player," Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said. You always have to keep an eye on him, be vigilant when he finds himself on the ice. But for me, the Avalanche have several very dangerous players. We would be making a mistake if we focused on just one player. We have great respect for this team. But I'm preparing my game plan for the Colorado Avalanche, not just for Cale Makar. »