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Newmarket hockey star reflects on becoming NHL draft pick

'It’s been a dream of mine to get drafted into the NHL since I was a kid. A feel good moment, but I know there’s a lot more work ahead of me,' Denver Barkey says after getting picked in third round

Newmarket resident Denver Barkey described getting drafted into the NHL as a heart-stopping moment.

After a strong year with the OHL’s London Knights, the Philadelphia Flyers drafted Barkey in the third round, 95th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft June 29.

“Super surreal moment,” Barkey said. “You’re just in shock … Kind of letting it sink in. It’s been a dream of mine to get drafted into the NHL since I was a kid. A feel good moment, but I know there’s a lot more work ahead of me.”

The lifelong Newmarket resident now has a road to a professional career. The centre earned his draft selection after having 59 points in 61 games with the London Knights this past season, followed by 24 points in 20 playoff games as his team lost in the league finals.

After getting drafted, Barley spent a week in the Flyers development camp and met staff and fellow players. 

He said it was great to meet general manager Daniel Briere, a former NHL centre of a smaller stature Barkey said he could relate to.

Briere “played a similar game to me, and he had a very successful career in the NHL,” Barley said. “Having him as my GM is really cool … Being able to meet all those people, start to build those relationships that are hopefully going to last a long time. It was awesome.” 

The OHL star has trained in Newmarket for his career, playing locally with the Newmarket Minor Hockey Association until he was nine. He recalled starting out skating when he was two, going to free skates at the Magna Centre.

“My dad would take me out there and I just slowly fell in love with the game from then on,” Barkey said. “My dad always tells me how fast I got and how I picked up skating.” 

He would go onto play in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, with the Markham Majors and then the Toronto Titans. 

But the pandemic arrived during his OHL draft year, causing him to lose a hockey year. 

“I was looking forward to being drafted in the OHL, a big season and a lot of fun. Having that taken away from me kind of sucked,” he said. “I tried to just manage and do things from home. Do workouts in the basement and shoot pucks in the driveway.” 

He would eventually get taken 16th overall in the 2021 OHL draft by the London Knights.

Barkey’s scored 15 points in 51 games in his first year in London before he took a big step forward with 59 points in 61 games this past season.

“I feel like my success, a lot of credit goes to my teammates, coaching staff, all those guys … You have individual success when your team’s having success.”

Barkey also won gold in 2022 as part of Team Canada in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup

Flyers vice-president and assistant general manager Flahr said Barkey was one of the favourites of the team’s staff.

“He's a little under-sized, but dynamic and offensive junior,” Flahr said. “High-speed, lots of energy. He's going to be a fan favourite wherever he plays.”

Barkey said he is focused on his next two years in the OHL, and getting ready for professional play, whether in the AHL or NHL.

But as he prepares to set out into the professional world, he said his connection to Newmarket remains strong.

“It’s a place that holds a place deep in my heart,” he said. “I greatly appreciate how supportive and awesome this town has been.”