The New York Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal is young, talented and ready for the next level. A post on the roster isn’t guaranteed, but if one opened up he could fit in.
In 2015, the New York Islanders selected Mathew Barzal from the Seattle Thunderbirds 16th overall. The 6’0” center shows great promise. Over the course of the last three season with the Thunderbirds, Barzal has 199 points in 161 games.
He had a great leap in productivity this year netting 88 points over a 58 game season. The only issue for the 19-year-old Canadian is that he finds himself playing a position with significant depth for the senior roster.
John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, Ryan Strome and Casey Cizikas all precede Barzal on the Islanders depth chart down the middle. But one of these men might leave in the offseason, potentially freeing up a spot.
Barzal’s Competition at Center
Both Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas are free agents, unrestricted and restricted respectfully. As an RFA Cizikas may stay. An upgrade to his current $1 million deal will be necessary, but it shouldn’t exceed $1.5 million per year.
As a UFA it may be harder to keep Nielsen, mainly because he’s likely to demand a significant upgrade on his $2.75 million deal that just expired. Should Neilsen leave, it opens a spot for someone like Barzal to squeeze in on the 3rdline.
At 19-years-old Barzal is still young enough to need a bit of grooming in the AHL with the Islanders affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Which brings into question what’s currently in the system that could leap frog Barzal in the senior roster. The answer is not many.
The Challengers in Bridgeport
Both Kearns and Quine had great seasons for the Sound Tigers in 2015-16 and will certainly fancy a call up to the senior club next season. Quine already has NHL experience playing two regular season games and another ten playoff games with the Islanders, netting six points.
Kearns has already represented two other NHL franchises, the Florida Panthers and the San Jose Sharks before joining the Islanders. Last year the 35-year-old played a total of two games in the regular season for the Islanders with a single assist.
The two will certainly be called to training camp along with Barzal. All three will have to prove to coach Capuano that they belong on the roster. Barzal is a natural center while Quine and Kearns are wingers.
Barzal will need to have a great training camp and possibly an equally great first few games for the team if he plans to stay around. Playing against Barzal is the fact that the Islanders already have a number of centers, and that the team may not want to burn a year of RFA status.