It’s the first thing you probably said the second you read the title for this article. And you aren’t wrong. Mathew Barzal needs to play with better players than Leo Komarov or Travis Zajac.
Uncle Leo can be a very useful role player in the bottom six, but pulling him out of the element and into a top-line role where creating offense is to some degree his primary function doesn’t work. Sure, people can point to the underlying WOWY stats that Barzal shares with Komarov. If you haven’t seen them Barzal is apparently better with Komarov than without.
But it’s clearly not working when Barzal has a single point over his last five while averaging exactly to shots on goal per game. With all due respect to Leo Komarov, he just isn’t bringing enough to the line. His inclusion forces Barzal to pick up more responsibility than he needs to.
The other day I looked at a few options for the top line based on what those players have done this season at an individual level. The best option seems like Wahlstrom. Though he’ll have to get out of Trotz’s dog house first.
The next best option is Brock Nelson. Pulling him up to the top line gives Barzal another set of capable hands to play with and a considerable goal threat.