Since entering the league full-time with the NY Islanders in 2017, Mathew Barzal has been known for his scintillating skating and offensive production. Though his numbers haven't been near those of his freshman campaign, when you think of Barzal, you think offense. Despite this, Barzal is at the top of the leaderboards in a specific defensive category.
With 34 takeaways this season, Barzal stands alone as the league's best into December. Not only is he alone at the top of the leaderboard, he leads by a fair margin. Sitting behind Bazal is Leon Draisaitl with 28, giving Barzy a six-point cushion at the top despite missing the Isles' last game.
Perhaps more impressive is that most of Barzal's takeaways have come at even strength. With 33 of his 34 total coming at even strength, Barzy pulls away from the pack and Draisaitl, who's second with 24.
Typically flying through the neutral zone using his blazing speed or stopping on a dime in the defensive zone to break up a pass, Barzal's skating allows him to force turnovers in different parts of the ice.
Leading the league in takeaways, Barzal, of course, leads the Isles, as Simon Holmstrom is his nearest competitor with just 16. Holmstrom, however, leads the league while shorthanded, with eight on the season. Three times have these takeaways led to goals at the other end of the ice for Holmstrom, who's tied for the league lead in that category.
With the good also comes the bad. Though he may lead the league in takeaways, Barzal doesn't sit far from the top in giveaways. His 30 giveaways are the third most in the league behind Draisaitl (31) and John Carlson (34).
While it's frustrating watching Barzal give the puck away so often, his turnovers due to his aggressiveness in the offensive end are more easily forgiven when he's taking the puck away from the opposition as often as he is.