New York Islanders Mathew Barzal Developing Perfectly
New York Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal is having a great introductory season in the NHL. He’s fitting in right because he knows exactly what the team needs from him.
New York Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal is having a great season. Through 17 games in the 2017-18 season, Barzal has 14 points. He’s currently tied for second in terms of rookie scoring and is on pace for 68 points.
His success might just come from an understanding between the team and Barzal as to what his role on the team should be. A pass-first playmaker.
It sounds crazy to think of Barzal of anything less. But let’s be honest we all know that under Jack Capuano the understanding was that Barzal was a rookie that needed to earn ice time.
That distinction plays a big difference in a player’s understanding of where he fits in the grand scheme of things. And can even play with his emotions.
The Jack Effect
I couldn’t help but notice Barzal confirming that when speaking to NHL.com Staff Writer Mike Morreale. Barzal was speaking with Morreale about his play this season, and obviously the discussion touched on last year’s setback that sent him to the WHL for another year.
"“There was also a different coach (Jack Capuano) back then and a little different style. Either way, it’s tough to crack the NHL but after a couple days, I was fine. I went back to junior and made the most of it.”"
We all know how Capuano felt about rookies. He was a veteran first guy and no number of points scored or highlight reel plays at the junior level would convince him otherwise. Every coach has to have an ideology, an approach they take, and that was Capuano’s.
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So when Barzal made the team out of camp in 2016-17, the expectation was that this exciting offensive talent will have the chance to shine. He wasn’t. In his first game in the NHL Barzal was given just over ten minutes of ice time.
Barzal was absolutely made to feel like he didn’t belong. Say what you will about him not necessarily being ready, but his status on the team clearly played into a play like the one in Washington that got him sent down.
Fast-forward to 2017-18, and Jack Capuano is no longer behind the bench. And after another season in the WHL, Barzal was ready.
We still aren’t 100% sure how Doug Weight feels about rookies vs vets, he’s said one thing but has done another. But the difference is there. Just look at Barzal’s ice-time this season. He’s somewhere between 14-16 minutes on average every night.
The Islanders and its coaching staff clearly know what to expect from Barzal and have obviously communicated that to their rookie. And because of that Barzal looks absolutely confident out there.
It’s the perfect storm of a player’s skill set being properly utilized with the right deployment. Which is frankly a breath of fresh air when it comes to rookies and the New York Islanders.
For years rookies were selected by the New York Islanders and either (or both) under-utilized or simply not developed. Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Strome are two recent examples of such. But with Barzal the team seems to have gotten it right.