Junior hockey star Colby Barlow, born and raised in Orillia, is set to realize his dream of being selected in the OHL priority selection draft on June 4.
The 16-year-old right-winger started his hockey career in Orillia when he was seven years old. Barlow went on to play rep with the Terriers AE and A programs and won an OMHA championship as a novice.
Barlow later spent three years playing with the region's AAA program, the North Central Predators, and currently plays with the Toronto Marlboros AAA organization, which has produced NHL stars such as Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares.
“It’s awesome. It’s fun hockey, it’s fast hockey, every night is a challenge, and every practice and game you are going against the best players,” Barlow said.
Barlow is projected to be selected in this year’s OHL priority selection draft during the first round; some pundits say he could even go first overall.
“It’s an amazing honour to be considered a player that gets to come into the league like that,” he said.
Barlow credits a lot of his success to his support system, which has helped him during each step of his hockey career.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the support of parents, my family, and hometown sponsors,” he said.
“I have had lots of teammates and coaches back in Orillia who helped develop me and helped me gain this opportunity.”
Leaving the Sunshine City wasn’t easy for Barlow as being away from family and friends can be tough. However, he is more than comfortable chasing his life-long dream of living in Toronto and pursuing a professional hockey career.
“I’ve met a lot of great people here in Toronto who have made me feel welcome. It was obviously nerve-wracking at first, but I’ve adjusted well, and it’s been great,” he said.
Barlow is now looking forward to getting to the next chapter of his journey and playing with even higher-rated talent.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play up with players on that level in some tournaments and it’s amazing hockey. I’m so excited to play at that level on a nightly basis,” he said.
While being drafted in any round at any number would be an honour for Barlow, his sights are set on being selected first overall.
“Every kid's dream is to go first overall and that’s my dream. I’ve worked hard for it, I’ve had lots of support and opportunities to be in the position to be that player. My goal is to go number one,” he said.
“It would mean the world to me to be able to show kids back home that you can do whatever you set your mind to. I really want this for myself, but also for everyone who’s been along the road with me.”
This year’s draft order will be determined by a lottery, which means Barlow has a one in 20 chance to become a member of the OHL's nearest team, the Barrie Colts.
“It would be really cool to play close to home, and lots of friends and family would come to those games and support me, it would be an honour,” he said.
As draft day gets closer, the anxiety of being drafted becomes heightened, but Barlow believes he is doing a good job keeping his emotions in check.
“There’s definitely some anxiety but I’ve been sticking to my routines, always thinking for a brighter future,” he said.
“The draft is going to happen and I’m going to be selected where I’m destined to go, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Barlow is continuing to work out and prepare for the upcoming OHL season despite the province-wide stay-at-home order.
“I’m doing whatever I can. I’ve been keeping a strong mindset, working out at home every day, shooting pucks in the driveway, going for runs and bike rides, I’ve been staying active,” he said.
“I’m going to do everything in my power to be prepared to play next year. I’m going to work toward being on the roster and playing in the league once I’m drafted.”
Barlow isn’t content with just being drafted. One of Barlow’s personal goals is to represent Canada at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
“That has always been a dream of mine ever since I started watching the tournament as a little kid. To represent my country would be one of my greatest honours, so I’ve always looked forward to that,” he said.
However, Barlow’s biggest goal is to make his hometown of Orillia proud.
“Giving back to the community is one of my top goals and I’m really looking forward to accomplishing that,” he said.