When it comes to NHL rankings among major media outlets across the United States and Canada, the NY Islanders are used to being disregarded from the list as many of the organization's top players don't get the recognition they deserve.
This time around, four Islanders were recognized among the top 125 skaters in the NHL, ranked by Dom Luszczyszyn, Sean Gentille, and Shayna Goldman of The Athletic. The rankings were broken down into tiers, led by, of course, Connor McDavid, as the league's best player.
Heading down the list to Tier 3, the "All-Star" tier, you find the first Islander in Mat Barzal. Barzy ranks in the 3C category, with 18 players rated above him in this tier. While Barzal has fallen off statistically since his rookie campaign, the former Calder Trophy winner oozes skill from his pores. With a potential move to the wing this season, Barzal may unlock that next level of offensive talent we've been waiting to see.
“I just can’t believe he doesn’t get more out of his skill set. That player, to me, is confusing,” one coach said. “Those guys need to find a way no matter who they’re with. If you’re a true (No. 1) center in your prime, you should be able to.”
With a switch to the wing, Barzal would be playing alongside Bo Horvat, whose defensive capabilities free up Barzal from the demands of his defensive responsibilities. While the organization has been searching for a winger for Barzal, it appears Barzal may be the winger himself.
“If you want to make the case for guys not having help, it just has to be him. He plays with absolutely nothing in a nothing system,” one analyst said. “He is a pure playmaker and I think that’s where he gets hurt by not playing with better guys.”
Below Barzal in Tier 4, you'll find the other three Islanders in the "Top Line" tier, with the first being Adam Pelech.
Since becoming a regular in the Islanders' lineup, Pelech has been a stalwart on the blue line. He's the first defenseman on the ice when the team is protecting a league, typically finding him against the opposition's top line.
“I do think if I needed a pure shutdown guy, it’d be Pelech for me,” one analyst said. Pelech does it all on the defensive end. He's strong, heady, and is a sneaky good skater. He'll eat minutes every night and seems to have a never-ending engine.
Holding Pelech back from being held in higher regard is his contribution on the offensive end. He's not much of a point producer but did finish with a career-high points-per-game last season at .34, totaling six goals and 15 assists.