After one season in the NHL, New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal was ranked the 16th best center in the league by NHL.com.
What a difference a year makes for Mathew Barzal. In 2016-2017 Barzal played two games with the New York Islanders, before being shipped back to Seattle, and looked completely overwhelmed at the time.
Heading into last year, we knew he’d make the roster but we assumed Brock Nelson would be the second line center. Boy was everyone wrong.
Barzal burst onto the scene putting up 85 points in his rookie season taking home the Calder Trophy with ease. Last season yielded a lot of appreciation around the league for Matty Barzal. NHL.com decided to rank the top-20 centers in the league and that list included Barzal.
Coming in at 16 was Mathew Barzal. He came right after Jack Eichel, the number two pick from 2016, and right before William Karlsson who had a breakout year for the Vegas Golden Knights. Here’s what E.J. Hradek had to say on Barzal:
"“He was so much fun to watch because [he’s] such a great skater, up all over those edges,” Hradek said. “Just the way he can make things happen.”"
What benefits Barzal is he’s one of the youngest guys on this list outside of McDavid, Eichel, and Matthews. At only 21-years-old Barzal has a real shot to move up this list come next year if they do this again.
Barzy is going to have a lot more responsibility as the assumed top-line center with John Tavares in Toronto. He’ll be going up against tougher competition so we’ll have to see if he is able to improve off his impressive year last year or if there’s a point regression.
If Barzal proves that last year wasn’t a fluke and that he can be a point per game player expect him to get even more recognition nationally. It’s Barzal’s team now, he might not wear the “C” but the offense runs through him.