The path for Morgan Barron seemed fairly clear in the winter. The 2017 sixth-round pick was the star player on Cornell, the top-ranked team in men’s college hockey. He would lead the team on a deep run for the National Championship and then, by any reasonable prediction, sign with the Rangers, maybe even joining AHL Hartford for the playoffs.
COVID-19 abruptly canceled the NCAA season. What was supposed to be the culmination of Barron’s three years at Cornell instead turned anticlimactic.
So if Barron were to pursue a senior season, it would be because he’s not mentally prepared to leave Cornell behind. Barron told Lohud that the current circumstances “screwed everything up.” It would be understandable if he felt he had unfinished business at school. The Big Red would be returning most key players, with Barron most integral, and would likely continue 2020-21 as a favorite to be NCAA champions.
That option appears to be in major jeopardy. Ivy League schools, Cornell included, have recently opted to cancel all Fall sports for 2020. That means that those hockey programs won’t begin again until January of 2021 at the absolute soonest. If those schools are able to conduct any sort of season at all, it will be a fairly limited schedule, and players will have been without competitive games for nearly a full year before cramming a quick mini-season and then taking yet another long summer break.
Such a long period of mostly idle time could be incredibly detrimental to the development of prospects with NHL aspirations. With that in mind, some have begun to abandon ship. Jack Drury (nephew of Chris), who was drafted by Carolina in the 2018 second round, has made the radical decision to leave Harvard for good and play in Sweden for the 2020-21 season. His teammate, Jack Rathbone, seemed poised for a junior season with the Crimson but instead signed with Vancouver immediately following the Ivy League announcement.
At least, physically and technically, Barron is ready to turn pro. He’s no longer the incredibly raw project the Rangers drafted out of St. Andrew’s in Canada. He’s grown into his body, improved his skating, and learned how to exploit his physical tools on the tactical side of the game at a Cornell program that is low on talent but high on cohesion. In fact, the Rangers were prepared to sign him following his sophomore season in 2019.
Even under normal circumstances, a senior season at Cornell would have been dubious. The parts of his game that need work — skating, quick decision making, and tactical reads — aren’t going to progress against mediocre ECAC 20-year-old’s. Should he return, it would be a sentimental decision more than anything. There’s no objectively “right” answer to what he should do, but the latest setback for college hockey really pushes the issue. Is Barron prepared to forego a year of his pro career, which would allow him to burn his entry-level contract, aide his development, and potentially advance to the NHL sooner, for the sake of a senior season at Cornell that could very well not even happen at all?
Only he can decide what’s best for him, but it seems likely that the Barron will forego a senior season and sign with the Rangers. As was the plan from the beginning.