Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman Seth Barton played in the CJHL Top Prospects game on Tuesday, a day after cracking the Top-100 list of NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman Seth Barton played in the CJHL Top Prospects game on Tuesday, a day after cracking the Top-100 list of NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman, Seth Barton, a top NHL prospect

Smoke Eaters defenceman Seth Barton is ranked 81st on the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings

For the second consecutive year, a Trail Smoke Eater is making an impression on NHL Scouts.

Trail defenceman Seth Barton is following in teammate’s Kale Howarth’s skates, as the 18-year-old Kelowna native cracked the NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings list and played in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s (CJHL) Top Prospects game last night in Mississauga, Ont.

“For a kid that played Major Midget last year, and now his stock has risen to where he’s considered a potential third round draft pick in the NHL and playing in the CJHL Top Prospects game is a huge accomplishment for him and also for our program,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith. “For all the kids involved, everyone is just super excited for him.”

Barton is ranked 81st among skaters on the NHL Central Scouting mid-term rankings released Monday for the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas in June. Ten BCHL players made the rankings and six from the Interior Division, including: Wenatchee Wild defenceman Stanislav Demin, 32, Penticton Vees d-man Jonny Tychonick, 45, Trail’s Barton, 81, Vernon Vipers forwards Brett Stapley, 146, and Josh Prokop, 175, as well as Vees netminder Adam Scheel who was ranked 23rd among goalies.

At six-foot-two, 175 pounds, Barton is a smooth skating, intelligent defenceman who contributes on the offensive side as much as the defence with six goals and 23 points in 36 games this season.

“He’s obviously big and strong,” said Keith. “He plays an old style game, and he doesn’t have to be provoked to play with some sandpaper. He has a competitive nature, he will look for those open-ice hits and play tough in the corner, and then he has an offensive upside to him where he has an absolute rocket for a shot from the blue line. But, he also has that ability to play with his head up so a lot of shots don’t get blocked, and he’s always composed … and has an unbelievable hockey sense.”

Barton always had an eye on academics and committed earlier this year to NCAA Div. 1 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, then was selected to play in the CJHL Jr. A Challenge with Team West in December, where he won gold alongside Smoke Eater forward Ross Armour.

His growth as a player has impressed coach Keith, who first scouted Barton at the Macs Midget Tournament in Calgary in Dec. 2016.

“When I saw him play last year at the Macs,” explained Keith. “I thought this is a kid who has pro aspects to his game. You can never predict what’s going to translate from one year to the next. But there are kids who have that quality in their game, and I’ve seen it because I coached pro, but Seth went from being a top-end midget player to a top end Jr. A player in training camp – and that’s something you can’t predict.

“Seth and Levi Glasman were cut from the same mold as far as they came in and it was a natural transition because of their hockey sense,” added the former ECHL coach. “The pace of the game didn’t throw them off because they could think the game that fast.”

Last season, Howarth topped all BCHL players in the NHL Central Scouting midterm ranking and went on to score two goals, including the winner, in a 4-3 Team West victory over Team East in the Top Prospects match. Howarth was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fifth round of the NHL Draft and is committed to UConn next year.

To have two Trail players drafted in consecutive years is unprecedented territory for the Smoke Eaters, who are in a battle for the top spot in the BCHL Interior Division. In addition to Howarth, only two other players were drafted as Smoke Eaters, Travis Gawryletz by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2004 and Grant Rollheiser in 2008 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“For any program, I think that’s a huge accomplishment,” said Keith. “And I think we can safely say, it hasn’t happened here having two kids drafted into the NHL in back-to-back years, hopefully it’s a good sign of things to come.”

Barton played Tuesday night in the CJHL Top Prospects game but the score was unavailable at press time.