Ivan Barbashev made his NHL debut with the Blues back on January 26th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. At the time, Barbashev was called up as an injury replacement for Kyle Brodziak and the plan called for him to split time with Wade Megan.
A lot can change in just two months.
Over those past two months, Barbashev has skated in 22 games and has chipped in four goals and four assists. He’s played with the offensive tenacity that the Blues were excited about when they drafted him in 2014 and when they called him up to the NHL roster in January. He looks strong and confident with the puck and has been one of the more entertaining players to watch.
Injuries may have opened the door for Barbashev, but he’s done a lot to earn and deserve regular playing time.
Jori Lehtera is an easy target due to his underwhelming play, but he’s a good measuring stick for the rookie. Lehtera has six goals and 19 points in 61 games this season, many of which came while he skated next to Vladimir Tarasenko. Barbashev trails Lehtera by just two goals while skating on the lower lines and – because no mention of Lehtera is worthwhile without talking money – has a cap hit that’s about $4 million more affordable. That might be an apples/oranges comparison, but it illustrates both how bad Lehtera has been for the money and how good Barbashev has been since his debut.
Injuries are supposed to be a trying time for a team, but the Blues have received some big performances from many of their depth players. In Barbashev’s case, he may be playing so well that he has surpassed the depth player category and should now be considered a regular feature in the lineup.