Friday, July 30, 2010

Barnett excited about move to Blazers

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
When the 2009-10 WHL season ended, the Kamloops Blazers had two 20-goal scorers on their roster.
They added another one Friday with the acquisition of forward J.T. Barnett, who will turn 18 on Aug. 21. (If you were wondering, that’s Justin Terrance.)
The Blazers got Barnett, a native of Calabasas, Calif., from the Vancouver Giants for a second-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft.
“I’m great . . . terrific. I’m excited . . . excited to get going,” said Barnett, whose family moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., when he was 10. “I’m excited to be with such a good organization. All the way up to the owners — (Shane) Doan, (Jarome) Iginla, (Darryl) Sydor and (Mark) Recchi. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Barnett hadn’t asked for a trade, but, as he said, “The opportunity presented itself and it seems like a good fit, so we took it.”
Last season, Barnett, 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, finished with 38 points, including 21 goals, and 42 penalty minutes in 71 regular-season games. He added three assists in seven playoff games.
“I’ve had an eye on him for a while,” Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner said. “I heard he might be available, so I made my pitch and we were able to get him.
“He fits nicely into our upper forward group. He scored 21 goals at 17, so . . .”
This was the seventh trade between Bonner and his brother, Scott, the Giants’ general manager, since May 2, 2008.
Of the players on the Blazers’ season-ending roster, only C.J. Stretch (30) and Brendan Ranford (29) scored more than 20 goals, and Stretch has graduated.
Barnett, a 10th-round pick in the 2007 bantam draft, had five points in 38 games in his freshman season. Then he started last season by scoring six goals in the first five games and 12 in his first 18 outings. However, he had just three goals in the regular season’s last 26 games.
He started on Vancouver’s top line, alongside banger Lance Bouma and centre Craig Cunningham.
“They had a lot to do with my success in the beginning,” Barnett said. As for things tailing off, he added: “There’s no one reason . . . I would like to be more consistent. That’s one of the things I want to work on.”
His season ended prematurely, thanks to a shoulder injury he incurred in Game 3 of a playoff series with the Portland Winterhawks.
“I just got hit awkwardly in the first period,” Barnett remembered. “I tried to play through it. The second period came around, I got hit into the boards and I knew it was out. That was the end of it.”
He had suffered a first-degree separation, so he was shut down. The injury didn’t need surgery, and he returned to Scottsdale to do the rehabilitation work.
Earlier this month, Barnett, who wasn’t selected in the NHL draft, attended the Minnesota Wild’s development camp. Sydor worked the camp in his role as an assistant coach with the Houston Aeros, the Wild’s AHL affiliate. Bonner said that Sydor “thought (Barnett) played fairly well.”
It was a good test for Barnett, who reported that his shoulder “wasn’t a problem . . . it’s good to go.”
“It was great,” he continued. “I felt I had a really strong camp. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot of stuff on the ice, power-skating and stuff like that. It was good.”
He showed enough that the Wild invited him to play on its representative in the eight-team prospects’ tournament in Traverse City, Mich., in September. Kamloops defenceman Josh Caron, who also attended Minnesota’s development camp, will be on the Wild team, too.
“I’m good friends with Caron, from camp,” said Barnett, who also is friends with two other Kamloops defencemen — Bronson Maschmeyer, who was acquired from the Giants prior to last season, and Brandon Underwood, who also is a native of California.
For now, Barnett is at home in Scottsdale, working out twice a day in preparation for the start of training camp here on Aug. 26.
“I’m excited to get going . . . my whole family is,” he said.
Barnett is the son of Michael Barnett, who first came into hockey’s spotlight as Wayne Gretzky’s agent and now is director of U.S. amateur scouting, as well as senior advisor to the president and general manager, with the New York Rangers.
JUST NOTES: F Bernhard Keil, who was selected by the Blazers in the 2011 import draft, is scheduled to arrive in Kamloops from his native Germany on Aug. 20. Slovakian F Dalibor Bortnak, who is returning for a third season, is to arrive on Aug. 21. . . . Keil recently played three exhibition games with the German U-20 team in Switzerland. He said he had a goal and an assist in a victory over Belarus, and added a goal, via penalty shot, as the Germans split two games with their hosts.
gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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