Mathew Barzal burst onto the scene for the New York Islanders in 2017-2018. Here’s how he graded out for the season.
Heading into the season the second line center position seemed like it was going to be a weakness. The New York Islanders had two candidates to fill the role, Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal and there was a real debate as to who deserved the shot.
Brock Nelson was the established NHL player, who had a very obvious ceiling for his production. Barzal was the wild card, a prospect with immense talent who looked overmatched in his first stint with the team last year.
The once perceived hole became the Islanders best strength. Mathew Barzal had a rookie season for the ages at the second line center position. Through the first five games of the season Barzal was held pointless. It all changed when he netted his first goal, against the New York Rangers. That really jumpstarted his season.
November 5, was the first taste of Barzal greatness put on display. He had eight points in 13 games which is still very productive mind you (a 50 point pace over 82 games). In that game, Barzal went off and had a five-point night against the Colorado Avalanche.
Ironically, it was the night Matt Duchene was traded. Many wanted the Islanders to give up Barzal in a deal for Duchene, luckily for the Islanders, Garth Snow didn’t pull the trigger this time.
The Islanders second line at times was better than the first. Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier have developed into an elite level second unit behind the Lee – Tavares – Bailey top line.
Barzal finished the season with 20 multi-point games and two five-point games. His final stat line was 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games as a rookie. His production was historic in year one.
Mathew Barzal finished with the same amount of points as Evgeni Malkin did in his rookie season with 85. The fact that Barzal’s name can be used in the same sentence as Malkin, who has been a great second super-star to Sidney Crosby, is a win itself.
As for his assists numbers he finished tied with Bryan Trottier and Sidney Crosby for second all-time for rookie assists. So, to recap Barzal’s name can be realistically brought up in the same conversation as Bryan Trottier, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, three hall-of-famers.
With that, the only acceptable grade for Barzal is an A+. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations this year and is still just 20 years old. Give the kid the Calder, and we’ll watch in awe again in 2018-2019.