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New York Islanders Mathew Barzal Should Be In NHL 20 Top 50 Players

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - MAY 20: Dylan Larkin (R) of the United States and Matt Barzal of Canada battle for the puck during the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Bronze Medal Game game between the United States and Canada at Royal Arena on May 20, 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - MAY 20: Dylan Larkin (R) of the United States and Matt Barzal of Canada battle for the puck during the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Bronze Medal Game game between the United States and Canada at Royal Arena on May 20, 2018 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal was left off EA Sports NHL20 top 50 players. Should he have been left off the list? No.

Look, Mathew Barzal had a down year for the New York Islanders. His 62 points this season, while still leading the team was down by 33 points from his rookie year.

But he’s still one the most dynamic players in the league. His speed, shiftyness, offensive awareness, and playmaking skills are one of the most electric in the league. But for EA, he still doesn’t rank as one of the 50 best players in the league.

But for some reason, at number 50 is Detroit Red Wings center, Dylan Larkin. Why? I spent way too much time of my life pitting the two against each other so I could somehow justify to myself that Mathew Barzal was snubbed.

(For some reason this particular topic is consuming me on a Saturday night.)

Barzal > Larkin

According to EA, Larkin ranks as the 50th best player in the league with an 88 overall ranking. For those new to EA player rankings, the overall ranking is an average of a number of attributes. From shooting, physical, defense, to sensory skills like discipline and offensive awareness.

I know that Mathew Barzal is better than Dylan Larkin. But I wear Orange and Blue tinted glasses. So to prove that my opinion wasn’t just biased I showed how Barzal stacked up against Larkin in each of Larkin’s 88+ attributes.

Was Barzal better than Larkin in the following attributes?

  • Stick Checking
  • Passing
  • Puck Control
  • Deking
  • Offensive Awareness
  • Speed
  • Acceleration

Stick Checking | 89

For this, I compared takeaway numbers for both players. If you successfully stick check someone it’s to take the puck away. How many takeaways do they have overall and ultimately how does that work to takeaways per game?

Barzal has 131 takeaways in 166 games played. Compared to Larkin’s 217 in 318 career games. That’s 0.79 takeaways per game for Barzal to Larkin’s 0.68.

Advantage Barzal. (Yes)

Passing | 89

I used data from Ryan Stimson’s Player Traits and Performance Comparison Tool with data from Corey Sznadjer’s Passing Project, to compare how effective both were at passing the puck. Unfortunately, data is only available for the 2017-18 season (it takes a lot of time to track all this stuff).

But in that season Barzal’s passing scores bury Dylan Larkin’s in most categories. Barzal was only lower in shot assists across the slot of from behind the net (DZSA60) and shot assists from the defensive and neutral zone (Trans60).

But when it came to one-time shot assists, second and tertiary shot assists, and expected assists from “pre-shot movement” Barzal was head-and-shoulders above Larkin.

Again, advantage Barzal.

Puck Control | 89

Puck control, in my mind, is being able to hold the puck under a challenge. It’s not about being able to do fancy tricks, that’s what deking is about. So I relied on giveaway numbers. Who coughs up the puck more frequently?

Barzal has 205 giveaways in 166 games. That’s an average of 1.23 per game. Not good. Larkin sits with 271 in 318 games. Clearly much less than Barzal.

Larkin wins this one.

Deking | 90

I looked at shootout numbers here. What better way to decide if a player is good at deking other than shootouts? It’s literally a one-on-one with a goalie where the player is trying to deek the goalie.

Larkin holds a nine percent efficiency on the shootout with a single goal in eleven attempts. Barzal is 25 percent efficient with three goals in 12 attempts.

Barzal wins this one.

Offensive Awareness | 91

This was tough. How do you grade something that is sensory? How do you grade a player’s sharpness in the offensive zone? How about the number of chances created?

*Stats from NaturalStatTrick

Using a per 60 basis Mathew Barzal is the clear winner. He creates more high-danger chances and medium danger chances per 60 than Larkin.

Speed | 93 & Acceleration | 95

There’s no way Barzal wins either of these two attributes. Larkin still holds the record time for the fastest skater at the NHL All-Star game with a 13.170 lap time. Barzal’s time at the last All-Star game was 13.780.

Larkin wins both speed and acceleration

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Dylan Larkin is a good player. Great even. but it’s clear that Mathew Barzal is a better player. He beats out Larkin in four of his seven better attributes. Sorry, Dylan.

(I feel better by the way.)

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