Although New York Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal did not have the start many fans had hoped for in the 2016-2017 season, the young forward is ready to prove his usefulness as the team’s much needed second line center.
When Mathew Barzal made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders in October of 2016, fans expected to see the forward prosper. However, playing only two games in the major league, Barzal tallied no points and spent much of his time in the penalty box, bringing his PIM total to six minutes with a particularly odd inference call after touching the puck while still in the box.
While this less than ideal start did not bode well for the 19-year-old, it is not entirely reflective of his true skill. Barzal was then sent back to his minor league team, the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, later that October, where he served as their captain.
That season, he led them to the Memorial Cup, winning the WHL title and bringing his team to the CHL’s annual championship tournament.
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What He Brings To The Table
Although his team fell hard in the Memorial Cup Tournament, going 0-3, Barzal showed leadership and his skill throughout the season and the WHL playoffs.
Barzal also served as an alternate captain for the Canadian U20 team in the World Juniors Championship this winter. Although his team fell in the gold medal game to the United States, the New York Islanders prospect earned an average of over one point per game in the tournament with 8 points total (3 G, 5 A) in only seven games.
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With Barzal’s juniors career behind him and the 2017-2018 NHL season fast approaching, it seems clear that now is the time to give the forward the second chance he deserves.
While New York Islanders fans had hoped their need for a second line center would be filled by Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche, this possibility seems to be growing less likely every day. Even if Joe Sakic has said he’s listening to offers.
However, they may have their solution in Mathew Barzal himself. Adding Barzal as this season’s standard second line center would fill a hole the Islanders have left gaping and give the prospect a formal chance to prove himself to be NHL ready.
With line mates Josh Ho Sang and Josh Bailey (or Andrew Ladd), Barzal could enjoy the comfort of veteran support while building chemistry with the New York Islanders’ budding superstar.
After all, the New York Islanders don’t have a better option than Barzal down the middle. Brock Nelson is the only other recognized center on the Isles roster. Brock is a fine player, but his talents seem better suited for the wing. The time for Barzal is now.