Before the back-to-back series with Minnesota, Evan Barratt was producing at a pretty average rate when it came to the score sheet.
He collected seven goals and six assists in the 26 games he played in the regular season prior to the four straight games with the Golden Gophers. Though Barratt was highly touted coming into Penn State for his experience (he was picked 90th in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks), the results weren't turning our heads like we anticipated in his freshman debut.
Barratt was slotted into the second line center role upon his arrival in Happy Valley. Coach Guy Gadowsky has gone on record to say he doesn't believe in ranking lines, but that was a move that probably inspired a ton of confidence in Barratt - whether it was planned or not. The losses of David Goodwin, Ricky DeRosa, Dylan Richard and Zach Saar were huge hits to Penn State's offensive arsenal. Barratt was one of the new guys expected to fill those gaps in the new era of Nittany Lions.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Barratt's effect on this Lions team at all at the start of 2017-18, as he was hindered by an undisclosed injury that kept him off the ice for six games. However, in his first game back, and in the first game of his Penn State career, he notched his first point: an assist in a 5-4 OT win against conference rival Michigan in the Nittany Lions seventh game of the season. You could tell already that he'd easily slot into one of the vacant scorer roles just by the way he played. It was good news for a club that lost a ton of depth there.
Since that tilt with the Wolverines, Barratt occasionally assisted on a few more goals each weekend, but finally broke though and hit twine in a 7-0 blowout to the fetal Arizona State Sun Devils. He ripped home the first two of Penn State's seven goals, and they'd eventually carry the team to a statement victory over a young club. It was a positive sign, and something the oddly struggling Lions needed at that point of the season.
Penn State is a team that prides itself in its new, modern style that projects chaos on opposing teams while peppering the heck out of their goaltenders.
After that weekend, Barratt did start to corral points every now and then, occasionally having multi-point games, but it was always done rather conservatively. Since he didn't have a plethora of points, here's a summarized list:
- Recorded a goal in both a 7-2 victory and 2-2 tie against Michigan State.
- Tallied an assist in a 4-0 shutout at then-No. 11 Ohio State.
- Registered an assist during a 7-4 victory against Robert Morris.
- Notched a goal in a 5-1 win over then-No. 15 Wisconsin.
- Registered an assist and notched two goals (including the game winner) in a 5-2 victory against now-No. 6 Ohio State - easily his best game by this point in time.
- Assisted a goal in a 4-2 loss at then-No. 18 Wisconsin.
However, during this stretch of conference games, Barratt's play seemed to be almost stunted somehow. I couldn't exactly put my finger on it. He was still tallying points here and there, but his style was almost as if it were being put on a leash - and ultimately stymied because of that leash.
Penn State is a team that prides itself in its new, modern style that projects chaos on opposing teams while peppering the heck out of their goaltenders. For an incoming competitor like Barratt, you'd think that his play style would be welcomed by the Nittany Lions coaching staff. Weirdly, it didn't seem that way.
A quote by Gadowsky sort of brought that thought home for me.
“In college hockey, sometimes you’ve got to watch yourself so you don’t cross the line,” Gadowsky told the Daily Collegian. “I know he’s worked on that extremely hard, and I’m actually very proud of his development that way and his challenge is to maintain that fiery personality of his and play within the rules of college hockey, and I think he’s doing a great job of that.”
Barratt, a fiery hockey player? Based on his play prior to reading this blurb, I didn't believe it. I didn't really see it. Sure, he's listed as having the fourth most minutes inside the box, but the entire Penn State team has had issues with taking untimely penalties all year. I never saw him lose his cool or let his competitiveness get the better of him.
Gadowsky and his staff must be dialing this kid back a ton if he's described in this capacity. To me, he's a great player with a high ceiling. With development, he will have a ton of success at the college level and beyond, not a hugely passionate guy that has difficulty keeping his composure and needs to be reeled in from time to time.
I finally witnessed Barratt show his true colors. I saw him let loose and play with fervor and flash.
Then the regular season Minnesota series happened ... and boy, was I wrong. Gadowsky loosened that aforementioned leash, Barratt absolutely erupted, and I finally saw what his coaches and teammates were talking about.
Barratt took it to the Gophers' best defenseman, Ryan Lindgren, all series. In Game 2, he pestered Lindgren so much it ended with Barratt throwing crybaby gestures at the Gopher's way after the pair got nailed for matching penalties.
Here it is folks: Evan Barratt making the crybaby face at Ryan Lindgren during last night's game. pic.twitter.com/tUqrhcmxCI
— Patrick Burns (@PatrickBurns_) February 25, 2018
That's where it all began. I finally witnessed Barratt show his true colors. I saw him let loose and play with fervor and flash. He then destroyed Lindgren, literally, as soon as he left the box - like, totally laid him out. Barratt wasn't messing around; he wanted to put Lindgren in his place, and he succeeded with flying colors.
Evan Barratt's hit on Ryan Lindgren from last night that came not even five seconds after the pair skated out of the penalty box. pic.twitter.com/aZ7r5VmPbg
— Patrick Burns (@PatrickBurns_) February 24, 2018
And that's not even the best part about all this. After mocking Lindgren in the box and laying a crushing hit seconds after, the freshman also decided to launch a wrister from the blue line and go bar-down on Minnesota's Mat Robson all in the same shift.
Later on that same shift, Barratt went bar down. It took some time, but the Blackhawks third round pick is turning into a real difference maker at the college level. pic.twitter.com/RVpVMH1C4m
— Patrick Burns (@PatrickBurns_) February 24, 2018
Barratt talked smack and then immediately backed it up. He played with controlled passion and would go on to rack up four goals and one assist throughout the two-straight series with the Golden Gophers, which, in comparison to his prior 22 games, was 40% of the total points he garnered before these couple weekends. With a huge matchup against Notre Dame looming, if his scoring tear continues, Penn State might just pull this upset off.
This kid's just getting started. Let him run wild.