It didn’t take long to see that Barron betting on himself was a good decision. He exploded onto the scene with points in each of his first seven collegiate games – all Cornell victories. The scoring pace tempered throughout the season, but it helped set a foundation for just how good he could be.
“I think once I had that good first two months, it was like I knew I could play here. That really helped me throughout the rest of the year when maybe that wouldn’t have been such a sure thing had I started off a little bit colder,” Barron said.
“Once the new year came around, I think the points stopped showing up as much and, obviously, I felt that there were still some games in there where I played great hockey. But it seemed that I couldn’t get on the score sheet at times. The team was winning, so that was good, and I think that was great for me to learn how I can contribute in other ways.”
Once again betting on his own success, Barron turned up a winner.
The accolades piled even higher this time around. By leading the team with 32 points in just 29 games, he posted the highest point-per-game average for a Cornell player in 10 years. Armed with a lethal NHL-level shot, he continued to produce while attracting the focus of opposing defenses.
There was no stagnation – Barron developed in all of the other facets of the game, just as he set out to do. He earned a second straight selection to the All-ECAC Hockey first team (a first for a Cornell forward since now-Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk) en route to being named the top overall player in the league. He is also the league’s only finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the top player in college hockey.
At times, Barron’s dominance is memorable. For example, a hat trick inside of 23 minutes against Yale on Nov. 9 that featured two goals where the goaltender didn’t move until the puck was already popping back out of the net. Another was late in the Jan. 4 game against Providence in which Cornell trailed late in the third period. With Cornell’s goaltender pulled in favor of an extra attacker, everyone on the ice knew Barron would be set up for a one-timer from the right circle at some point – but it didn’t matter. Barron took an imperfect pass and deposited it past a defender and over the shoulder of the Friars’ goaltender to tie the game for good.
“I think the biggest thing was that there was a certain level of transparency between myself and the Rangers and Coach Schafer,” Barron said. “For example, when the camera crew was coming up, I would sit down to talk with him about it, and I think he was really good at knowing it didn’t really mean anything. Having a few people follow me around for a couple of hours in a day wasn’t going to change my perspective as a person and where I’m at as a player.
"And then the Rangers, they are a great resource for me just because within their organization there is a ton of hockey knowledge and the people have been through a lot of the things I’m going through," he added. "So it’s great to use them for that. But in terms of leaving college early, I’ve never felt pressured at all from them.”
It helps that those within the Rangers can relate to Barron’s situation. One of Ortmeyer’s assistants knows all about the Ivy League. Tanner Glass, who works specifically with the Rangers’ North American prospects, played out his four-year collegiate career at Dartmouth before signing with the team that drafted him (the Florida Panthers) en route to an 11-year NHL career.
Ortmeyer, himself, had a similar situation in his playing days. Undrafted entering his playing career at Michigan, Ortmeyer said he had the option of joining the professional ranks after three years. He ultimately returned to Ann Arbor for a fourth year, because he was going to rehabilitate a second ACL surgery.
“He’s an exceptional player. He’s a power forward playing at a university known to produce those kinds of players,” Ortmeyer said. “We don’t want to interfere with what’s going on in school. We know demands on him are high with his class load and all of that. So we try not to be intrusive -- just let him know what we can do to help, that we’re watching, and that we care.”