1. Mat Barzal Scores 90+ Points and has an MVP Caliber Season
If the same-look Islanders are going to make the playoffs this season in a Metro division that had many teams significantly improve, certain players internally are going to need to take their game to a different level. Mat Barzal has said this about himself, that he knows an extra step has to be taken in order for the team to improve the way it needs to.
Jumping up to 90 or more points would be shattering a career-high for Barzy, and would be the first time he even crossed 60 points in three seasons. Given the potential that Islanders fans see from him on a nightly basis with his speed and vision of the ice, the eye test alone could tell you he is waiting to burst out of the gates.
""I feel like in order for us to be good, I have to be among the top players in the League. I feel like I just didn't do it consistently enough last year."- Mat Barzal
Stat-wise, this was one of his least productive seasons while in the NHL. However, what's intriguing is his production on the power play this past season. This was his second best season in producing power play assists with 19, and his best with creating first assists finishing with 10. This shows that he was much more comfortable on the power-play this season and was able to make more plays leading to goals, also shown by his on-ice SH% of 14.86, by far the best mark since his rookie season, which emphasizes again that the team scores much more on the power-play with him on the ice. If he can create even more space and use that speed to his advantage to set up teammates such as Anders Lee, Noah Dobson, Ryan Pulock, and Brock Nelson among others, then the Islanders' power play as a whole can be much more improved with his help.
Motivation-wise, this season is a season Barzal can't really afford to mess up. His contract will be up for renewal on July 1st in 2023, and this will be the chance for him to be locked up with financial security. Barzal currently takes up $7 million on the cap, which is tied for the highest cap percentage on the team with Lee, according to CapFriendly. Barzal has been rumored to have begun contract negotiations with management, but it is widely unexpected that a deal gets done before the season begins. An understandable move by Barzal's camp if he is willing to bet on himself to get a big contract.
The Islanders themselves have been counted out of contention by many due to their lack of personnel changes and inability to score goals. If he is able to take the Islanders to the next level from his play alone and lead the team to a high finish in the standings, along with offensive prowess, there's no reason he shouldn't be in the Hart Trophy conversation. A similar situation in recent memory could be related to Artemi Panarin's first season with the New York Rangers, a team that was still considered to be in their rebuilding stage, yet Panarin scored 95 points in just 63 games in 2019-20, which lead to third place in the Hart Trophy voting.