If the 2015 NHL Entry Draft had to be redone, would New York Islanders Mathew Barzal be taken second, or would that still be Jack Eichel’s honor? Cause I think Barzal is now the better player.
It’s obvious that Barzal was massively undervalued at 16 overall. But based on what we know, where should he have been drafted?
According to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, Mathew Barzal should have been drafted third overall. It’s certainly a fair rank, but I think Barzal should have gone second overall instead of Jack Eichel.
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Take Him At Number Two
This is what Wheeler had to say about Barzal, and why he jumped him up 13 spots to number three.
"3. Arizona Coyotes: Mathew BarzalActual draft pick: No. 16 (change: +13)My final ranking: No. 7 (change: +4)This is the first slot where there’s not only movement but also a discrepancy between where the player was taken and where I had him ranked. I was really, really high on Barzal during his draft year and it still might have proven to not be high enough. I think his fall was an obvious mistake at the time and that was evidenced in his brilliant rookie season this year. Here’s the complete list of under-21 players (not even just rookies) who scored more than Barzal’s 85 points in 82 games over the last 10 NHL seasons: Connor McDavid (twice), Steven Stamkos (twice). That’s it. Even if you extend that all the way back to 2005-2006 (the first season after the lockout), that list only adds three more names: Sidney Crosby (twice), Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin."
Since 2005-06 only five players have scored more than Barzal’s 85 in their rookie season. All of them are absolute all-stars. Two of them are already in the top 100 players of all time (ps: Malkin should have been a third).
And then there’s McDavid. You know the NHL seriously thought about putting him on that top 100. His 256 points in 209 games certainly suggest that they’d have a case.
The idea here is that Barzal is amongst some of the most elite players to currently play the game. But the argument is, is he better than Jack Eichel?
New York Islanders
Eichel v Barzal
I think Barzal is better. Just Barzal’s production will show you that he’s better than Eichel. Sure, Eichel missed time with injury and only played 67 games. But with 64 points in that span still puts him and 78 over a full season.
And in all other metrics, Barzal beats out Eichel. This season.
Points per 60? Barzal is 2.83, Eichel 2.04. Relative Corsi-For, Barzal is 6.81 and Eichel is 1.72. HOw about expected goals +/-? Barzal is 2.12 to Eichel’s -3.72.
(all data from Corsica.hockey)
To be fair to Eichel, he’s been getting better every year. And the team around him seems to be getting worse. But as the leader of that team, he hasn’t been able to do much to lift them out of the basement of the NHL.
Remember, this was a player that told teams he would be better than Conor McDavid. Three years into both of their careers and we know that to not be true.
The only knock on Barzal has to be that he’s only been in the league for a single year. Eichel played right away for Buffalo. But does that make Eichel better than Barzal or simply more fortunate to play for a team that dismantled their entire roster to get the guy drafted before him?
Consider this. Eichel has had three years to get to a level that is below Barzal. He’s had three season’s to hone his craft. Don’t get me wrong, Eichel is a good players, a great one even. Barzal is a cut above.
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Mathew Barzal is the better player. His impact has been greater, his production across all levels have been greater. A case could certainly be made that Barzal, and not Eichel should have gone second in the draft. Hindsight is 20/20.