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New York Islanders Mathew Barzal Will Be Fantasy Dark Horse

Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal is due a bounce-back season. If you can take him in your fantasy league, do it.

Mathew Barzal didn’t have a great season for the New York Islanders in 2018-19. WIth 62 points his production dipped by 23 points from his Calder winning season. He was still the team leader in terms of points, but he didn’t hit the same highs from the 2017-18 season.

It’s not to say he wasn’t very good. He was great. But in a system that prioritized team defense, Mathew Barzal – and most of the Islanders forwards – suffered in the goals and assists column.

With all that being said. Mathew Barzal isn’t going to be rated highly when it comes time to draft your NHL fantasy team. And that’s something you should absolutely exploit.

Bounce Back

According to NHL.com, Barzal is the 26th ranked center when it comes to fantasy value. He’s ranked behind players like Mika Zibanejad (19th), Dylan Larkin (23rd), and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24th). Dylan Larkin? C’mon now.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a guy who scores at a 0.71 point-per-game pace over his career is higher ranked than Barzal who’s scored at a 0.89 point-per-game pace over his (admittedly short) career.

What I’m trying to show here is that Barzal’s low output last season is throwing everyone off. And that’s fair to some degree. A 62 point season isn’t a great return. So when it comes time to build models to figure out who ranks higher, Barzal is going to take a hit.

Last season was difficult for Barzal. He’s been in the league two years and he’s already had two coaches. Two coaches who were polar opposites when it came to coaching. One (Doug Weight) prioritize offense, while the other (Barry Trotz) prioritized defense.

That’s one heck of a curveball to throw at a kid who’s also trying to navigate the complex workings of the NHL and dealing with a budding super-star career.

This year should be different. Trotz is still the head coach and will still preach a strong defensive game from his team. But Trotz knows how to get offense. His 2016-17 Washington Capitals have the 12th most goals for in a single season in the four years he was there.

The Islanders know that they can’t run the same game plan they did in 2018-19 and get similar results. Teams know what to expect and will counter it. This season, the New York Islanders have to mix in more offense. And the main benefactor to that will be Mathew Barzal.

If you take Mathew Barzal in your fantasy draft he will get you a good return.

The Breakdown

Just consider the main categories when it comes to fantasy hockey. Goals, assists, shots on goal,  plus-minus, and power-play points.

Goals

He only scored 18 goals last season. But Barzal took a hit in the production column for the good of the team (as did most forwards). Now that the team knows how to play team defense, they will be able to increase their offensive output.

For Barzal that starts with getting the puck on net more. Sure, he increased his shot on goal totals by nine, but he wasn’t as efficient in getting his shot attempts on net.

If he hits the net at the same rate he did last season he’ll easily add a few goals to his stats sheet. and that’s not considering the power-play.

Assists

Even in a down year, Barzal managed to generate 44 helpers on the season. Twenty-five of them coming at 5on5, and 14 of those as primary assists. In a season where the offense will feature more heavily, those numbers will go up.

Shots on Goal

In order for the Islanders to create more offense, they’ll have to get the puck towards the net more. It’s just that simple. Look for Barzal to increase his shot totals. He already went up by nine from last season. But he can go higher.

Barzal wasn’t as efficient in getting his shot attempts on net last season. With 179 of his 293 shot attempts hitting the net he was averaging a 0.61 shot on goal ratio, down by four percentage points from last season.

With Trotz adding in more offense, Barzal can easily hit 190 shots on net this season.

Plus Minus

His worst season was a minus-five rating. I’m not going to argue that he’s all of a sudden going to be a +/- beast. Mainly because I don’t care about the stat and I don’t think it should be included in fantasy hockey. Next!

Power Play Points

We know the Islanders were terrible on the power play last season. But Mathew Barzal still managed to lead the team with 18 power-play points. With Jim Hiller in control of the man advantage, the Islanders should be better. And Mathew Barzal will be the focal point of that improvement.

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I’m not saying to go take Barzal with your’ first pick of the draft. But if he’s still on the board in the third round, it might be wise to take him. He’s going to bounce back. He’s going to be good value for your fantasy team.

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