After years of fans thinking the worst, It's unlikely Mathew Barzal will ever play a game for the Seattle Kraken after the New York Islanders center signed an eight-year contract extension before the start of the 2022-23 season. Barzal loves the life and lifestyle he has on the Island and trusts the organization will do what it takes to be a perennial playoff team.
However, a good part of his hockey heart remains in Seattle and with the Thunderbirds, the Western Hockey League (WHL) team he starred for and won an Ed Chynoweth Cup with during the 2017 season, and that was evident on Sunday night. The two-time All-Star was the first overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by Seattle and was in attendance in Kamloops, B.C., as the Thunderbirds took on Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts in the Memorial Cup Final.
The Remparts entered the game with a 27-3 record since the start of March and had lost only two games during their QMJHL playoff tun. They were dominant since that part of the season, and it culminated in a 5-0 win over Seattle to capture the Memorial Cup. The game was closer than its final score as Quebec led 2-0 with less than 10 minutes to play in the 3rd period. The Remparts were the only team to beat Seattle during the tournament, winning 3-1 during the round-robin and again last night in the final.
The Thunderbirds had their best team since Barzal was there and arguably the best team in their history, earning a franchise-best 111 points (54-11-1-2) during the regular season. Seatle, a team that boasts six players ranked by Hockey Central, was the highest-scoring team in the WHL playoffs, averaging more than four goals a game. They defeated the Kamloops Blazers in six games to win their first WHL title since Barzal.
Being the biggest star to play for the Thunderbirds, Barzal has maintained a strong relationship with the franchise and now each annual trip to Seattle is a mini-homecoming. "I think the whole Seattle Thunderbirds team is coming and all the staff, Barzal said before his first game there in 2022. "It's honestly just awesome to be back and there's just that feeling you get when you have history in a certain spot."