After New York Islanders forward, Mathew Barzal’s undeniably hot start to his rookie year, it’s hard for fans not to look towards his future. It may not even be too far-fetched to put his name in the running as a serious contender for the Calder Trophy.
In light of the blockbuster Matt Duchene trade on Sunday night, many New York Islanders fans are looking back at what could have been. One of the most prominent rumors at last year’s trade deadline was that any package for Duchene would include prospect Mat Barzal as a piece.
Garth Snow thankfully held out and rebuffed Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic’s demands as Newsday’s Arthur Staple confirmed this Monday morning:
While this seems like far too much to ask for in the wake of Barzal’s success, there were a great number of fans clamoring for Duchene regardless of the price tag. Although they didn’t acquire Duchene, what the New York Islanders kept is a player with a fair chance at winning rookie of the year.
Barzal has some steep competition in this race and October has only just ended but it’s never too early to start evaluating rookie talent.
Anyone watching the Islanders for the first month of the season can see Barzal’s incredible talent. Working effectively with the team’s new star, Jordan Eberle, on the second line, he is averaging just below a point per game so far.
Just this Sunday, Barzal became the first Islander rookie to tally five points in one game since 2010. With two of these assists being on highlight worthy Jordan Eberle goals, it’s obvious he has found his stride with the team. Utilizing his speed to carry out what has become a Barzal trademark: a wide circle behind the goal for a feed to the slot.
Should he maintain this pace as the New York Islanders second line center, Mat Barzal could be seriously considered as a Calder candidate.
Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick
It’s not uncommon for the Calder Trophy to be awarded to one of the top two overall picks but so far, neither Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick have been overwhelmingly impressive. Not every top pick can score in their first game, or four times in their first game if you’re Auston Matthews.
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The Philadelphia Flyers have begun to experience what everyone was concerned about when it came to Patrick: injuries.
Placed on the IR already once this season and remaining day-to-day as a result of a hard hit, the league’s second overall pick may already be seeing the effects of his injury prone nature. If the pattern continues, it would be hard to see how this wouldn’t influence his chance at the Calder.
Nico Hischier, the New Jersey Devils first-overall pick, has not failed to produce as much as he has failed to impress. With 10 points in 13 games, it can hardly be said that he isn’t performing but it remains to be seen whether he will stand out himself or if he will continue to ride the sudden success of his team.
Arizona prospect and current Calder favorite, Clayton Keller, has almost the opposite obstacle. Currently averaging over a point a game, Keller has certainly been the most impressive of the NHL rookies so far. However, with the abysmal start the Coyotes are seeing, it’s difficult to say whether or not he’ll be able to keep up this performance.
While Barzal will continue to play with the likes of Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd, Keller is surrounded by a 2-12-1 Coyotes team that just barely made it out of October with a win. In the long run of the season, Barzal may thrive more in his environment than Keller will in Arizona.
It’s too early to make any real predictions for the Calder Trophy just yet but it can definitely be said that the Islanders made the right choice in passing on Matt Duchene as they might already have a rising star. With many fans seeing a bit of John Tavares in the young Mat Barzal, it’s impossible not to be excited about his future.