At this point in the season, Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal have played the same number of games, 52 for the Islanders. Through the same number of games, it's not hard to find who the better player has been this year, Brock Nelson.
He has 27 goals and 42 points compared to Mathew Barzal's 40 points and 12 goals. Clearly, they're different kind of players too and that has to factor in but with how each has been playing I don't know how you don't come to the conclusion that Brock Nelson has been the Islanders best forward this year.
Think about it, and I don't mean this as a knock for Mat Barzal who I like a great deal and who has good puck skills, Nelson is the better two-way center, the better faceoff guy, and the better shooter. I think you can make the case that he's actually their number one center.
When outsiders or even Islanders fans too think of the Islanders Barzal is the name that comes to mind. He's the flashiest and most years their best guy, but what if he's better suited as more of the number two center behind Brock who like a fine wine gets better with age.
The anticipation for the Islanders is bringing in a forward in free agency for the top-six. Perhaps a Filip Forsberg, who got his career started with Barry Trotz would make sense. Could they do the unthinkable and go with a top-six of:
Lee - Nelson - Forsberg
Parise - Barzal - Wahlstrom
As a line, Parise - Barzal - Wahlstrom has been very good in a small sample size. In just over 69 minutes of ice time at 5v5, the line has a 58.78 CF%, a 56.69 xGF%, and a 59.76 SF% according to Natural Stat Trick. The line works. It's the veteran in Parise who is very good defensively and can still pitch in and help drive offense with effort and the two best skill guys on the team with Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom.
Plus, it doesn't have to be a forever thing. If it stops working, it stops working and you put Barzal back up with Filip Forsberg and Anders Lee in this scenario.
I don't know, I was just thinking earlier today how well Brock Nelson has played and really taken over in his role. I think there might be something to this plan of taking some of the pressure off of Mat Barzal and leaning more on Brock Nelson.