Anders Lee is the captain, the fourth line is the identity, the Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock pair is the most important piece, but Mathew Barzal is the best player on the Islanders. The Isles are in a weird spot.
For 99% percent of the league, the team’s best overall player is either the most important piece, the identity of the team, or the captain. It’s not an anti-Barzal statement, it just shows how genuinely unique the Islanders are.
Last year, Barzal put up 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 55 games. Paced out over a full season, that’s a 25 goal and a 67 point season. How often would someone with 67 points lead a team in production and also be considered an elite player at the same time?
Again, it’s rare but it’s because of how the Islanders play. In 2017-2018 Barzal was able to go full offense and put up 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) on the season. While those stats bounce off the page, the team, overall, wasn’t nearly as good.
It also doesn’t help that last year specifically, Barzal lost his best winger in Anders Lee. In the 27 games they played together, Barzy had 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists). Plus, the advanced numbers were really favorable for that top unit. Here’s how the Lee – Barzal – Eberle unit generated offense at 5v5:
With Anders Lee back and either Oliver Wahlstrom or Kyle Palmieri up top on the right side, the top line has a chance to be good again in 2021-2022.
Mathew Barzal Expectations 2021-2022
Mathew Barzal will once again lead the Islanders in points and ice time for forwards. Barzal will play just north of 19 minutes per night and to start the year his wingers will be Anders Lee on the left and Kyle Palmieri on the right.
We will also see a bounce-back of power play numbers. Barzal will have five goals on the power play and add another 16 assists on the man advantage as well.
On the season, Barzal will finish with a flat 70 points (24 goals, 46 assists). At times he will be frustrating and go through slumps where he doesn’t shoot the puck nearly enough but 70 points (or a .85 points per game pace) would be his best season since 2017-2018.
Barzal is a dynamic player, and by far the most fun player to watch on the team on a nightly basis. Hopefully, there are more moments like this one in 2021-2022: