The New York Islanders are going to feel pretty red in the face after last night’s display by Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior. Specifically in regards to one center playing out of Seattle.
At the start of the season, the possibilities were endless for Mathew Barzal and the New York Islanders. The young 19-year-old had just been given a full roster spot ahead of an established vet in P.A. Parenteau.
He and Anthony Beauvillier were to be the Islanders future today. They were going to spearhead the new generation of talent in the Islanders organization.
The narrative was outstanding. Not only were these two making active roster starts at 19-years-old they shouldn’t have even been Islanders in the first place!
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Both Barzal and Beauvillier were first round picks in 2015, 16th and 28th overall. Barzal fell to the Islanders, along with the 33rd overall pick, by way of trade with the Oilers for Griffin Reinhart.
Beauvillier fell to the Isles thanks to some fancy wheeling and dealing from GM Garth Snow who successfully parlayed that 33rd overall pick from the Reinhart trade and his own 72nd overall pick to land Anthony Beauvillier.
Picks that the Islanders didn’t own hours before the draft, were now going to make the active roster a year after being drafted. Garth Snow looked like an absolute genius.
The Feeling Didn’t Last
So naturally fans were excited when Barzal made the team out of camp. It was a reaffirmation that their faith in the process was going to be repaid. All those years of toiling at the bottom were over. The team was going to be stocked with a superstar center, two hotshot rookies and a decent complimentary cast of players throughout the lineup.
But after just two games with the big club, Barzal was sent back to his junior team in Seattle. Fans weren’t too pleased about it.
Since being sent back to the WHL Barzal has 19 points in 13 games (2G, 17A), and is on pace for 76 points. Showing that the failed attempt at making the team didn’t affect him negatively.
The Big Stage
When he was sent down I thought it was because the team believed Barzal couldn’t handle the emotions of being on the big stage. The team wanted him to gain some composure before giving him carte-blanche at the NHL level.
Remember when he played the puck while still standing in the penalty box against the Washington Capitals? That was his first taste of regular season NHL action. He sat for four games before playing again against the Montreal Canadiens.
The occasion clearly got to him, and the Islanders didn’t let him recover from it.
Now Barzal is playing for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Bell Center in Montreal and the Air Canada Center in Toronto. NHL rinks filled to the brim with wild Canadian hockey fans.
And Barzal doesn’t seem to mind at all.
Barzal ended up winning player of the game for Canada with a goal, two assist, and five shots on goal. He was the dominant player for Team Canada on the day.
Maybe sending him to Seattle was the right call. Maybe it was exactly what Barzal needed to get to the next level. Maybe.
Or maybe Barzal had it in him all along. He just wasn’t given the environment to thrive? That’s what I’m starting to believe.
I have a hard time seeing Barzal being so dominant so quickly after being sent down. Maybe he’s just a quick study. He learnt what he needed to learn and is now ready. But if that’s all it took the Isles certainly wasted a send down when all it could have taken was a sit-down.