New York Islanders first round pick from 2015 will get to show fans he’s ready for an NHL job tonight against the Flyers, and the Isles are putting him to the test.
New York Islanders 2015 first round pick, and 16th overall Mathew Barzal will start on the first line at center in the Islanders first pre-season game of the 2016-17 season. His linemates and wingmen are Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
Those linemates look a bit odd when you consider that Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, and Anthony Beauvillier were still available for selection. With all due respect to Prince and Quine, they aren’t first line players.
So why put Barzal on the top-line with players who aren’t first-line players? From what I can see it’s because the Islanders are seriously considering putting him on the roster.
Barzal Given NHL Test
In Prince and Quine, Barzal has two NHL level players flanking him. Prince for his part spent the entire season playing in the NHL in 2015-16. Playing in 64 games between both the Ottawa Senators and the New York Islanders.
Alan Quine spent the last two seasons playing with the Isles AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In those two seasons, he’s remarkably scored 109 points. He’s clearly outgrown the AHL and is ready for an NHL spot.
Now, let’s just assume both get a spot. Where would they slot into the roster? Last season Prince played on the third line. A spot he would likely hold going into 2016-17. And the same can be said for Quine. Both are third line players going into 2016-17, should they make the NHL roster.
The Isle already have John Tavares and Ryan Strome as a one-two down the middle. And after the little hiccup with Ryan Strome’s career trajectory, the Isles should really stick to playing him at his natural position. So Barzal would go to that third line slot.
So rather than play Barzal with the likes of Ho-Sang and Dal Colle, two very exciting offensive prospects in their own right, the Isles are testing Barzal’s NHL readiness. How can Barzal handle, and hopefully excel, with an NHL assignment? Can he adapt well? Is he ready?
Keep in mind Barzal is only 19 years-old, 19 year-old don’t always make the NHL (Conor McDavid’s of the world excluded). And for good reason. They’re generally a bit undersized and just have a harder time keeping up with players years their senior. Prince and Quine are both four years older than Barzal.
Every fan’s heard rumors that Barzal might just be on the opening night squad come the 13th against the Rangers. But in order to be named the 19-year-old Barzal is going to have to prove himself, and the Islanders management are giving him the chance to do so.