According to the NHL Network, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal is the 19th best center in the league.
It’s that time of year again, where the only thing we can do is fight over reverse retro jerseys and talk about arbitrary rankings. Well, today it’s the latter as we will discuss where Islanders forward Mathew Barzal fits in terms of the best centers in the sport.
The NHL Network is ranking the top-20 at each position and coming in at 19th for Center is Mat Barzal. Is this ranking fair for him?
Let’s start by taking a look at what Barzy did last season. In 68 games for the Isles, he had 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists). Over a full season that’s a pace of 72 points and 23 goals for the 23-year-old center.
Without question, he is far and away the best player on the Islanders and is one of the more dynamic players in the league. After a 62 point 2018-2019 season in his sophomore campaign, Barzal bounced back rather nicely this past season.
Sean Couturier, Steven Stamkos, and Elias Pettersson are the three centers ahead of Barzal on this list before you get into the top-15. Couturier had himself a 22 goals and 59 point season, which is slightly behind Barzal on the point pace.
Couturier was this past year’s Selke winner and he’s finished top-10 in Selke voting each of the last three years. I don’t have an issue with him getting the nod over Mat Barzal. The Stamkos one is a head-scratcher though.
It’s not because he isn’t a better player than Mat Barzal, he definitely is, but does he play center enough to get the nod? Stamkos spends a lot of time on the wing also and is expected to play RW with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn on line two in 2021.
As for Elias Patterson, I’d probably agree that he deserves to be ranked higher than Barzal as well. In his second season, he finished with 27 goals and 66 points in 68 games. At just 21 years old, the sky is the limit for him.
I don’t really have an issue with where Barzal is on this list. Maybe, 18th at the highest and bump Stamkos off the list but that’s splitting hairs. At the end of the day, the Isles have a top-20 center which is a pretty nice thing to have on your top line.