The NY Islanders made one of the greatest pairs of NHL draft day transactions in their history eight years ago, today when they were able to select Mathew Barzal at 16th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, along with his best friend Anthony Beauvillier at 28th overall. Looking back, it seems almost improbable that then-GM Garth Snow was able to go from having no first-round picks to acquiring a first and second-rounder by flipping former 2012 4th overall pick Griffin Reinhart.
New York Islanders Select Mat Barzal & Anthony Beauvillier
Even more improbable was Barzal's fall down to the the 16th pick. The Boston Bruins held three selections in a row before the Islanders from trades involving Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. With those picks, they passed on the British Columbia native and took Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, and Zachary Sensyshyn in that order, and only Debrusk made a name for himself in the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers originally held the 16th overall selection until they moved it to New York in an attempt to boost their defense with an up-and-coming Reinhart. It did not work out that way for Edmonton considering Reinhart was left unprotected in the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, eventually getting taken and not playing in the NHL ever again. In essence, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli traded Mathew Barzal to the Island for absolutely nothing, and fans have him along with Bruins GM Don Sweeney to thank.
The second-round pick the Islanders received was slated at 33rd overall, but the Islanders moved back into the end of the first round via a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning and took Beauvillier at 28th overall. The New York Rangers were the original owners of that pick but they traded it to the Lightning along with captain Ryan Callahan in exchange for Martin St. Louis. A lot of moving parts in this trade tree, but it gave the Islanders two skilled forwards that became part of the Islanders' young core for the past eight seasons.
Staying on Beauviller, the Quebec native was a controversial player during his time with the Blue and Orange. He struggled with inconsistency during the regular season but did turn it up in the playoffs when it mattered, scoring 29 points in 49 total games. His most notable moment came in the 2020-21 Eastern Conference Finals against the very team that traded the pick he was taken with, when he scored the last goal in Nassau Coliseum's history in overtime to force a game seven in Tampa Bay. At the 2022-23 trade deadline, GM Lou Lamoriello included Beau in a big splash trade that sent him along with future assets to the Vancouver Canucks for Bo Horvat. How this trade shakes out long-term for both teams remains to be seen, but Tito's time as an Islander should be remembered fondly.
Barzal on the other hand has become the Islanders' franchise player down the middle beginning in his rookie season, scoring 85 points in 82 games all while showcasing his game-breaking speed, skill, and passing ability, earning him the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2017-18. He has not reached those numbers since, but being stuck in a system that emphasized defensive structure under Barry Trotz took a toll on his point totals. This past season under new bench boss Lane Lambert, he scored 51 points in 58 games before sustaining an injury that kept him out until the playoffs, where he scored two goals in a first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Notably, Barzal ranks 7th in points from all 2015 draft picks in a class that some consider the best in NHL history.
Maybe more important than his contributions on the ice, Barzy has a place in all New York fans' hearts due to his undying loyalty to being an Islander. After previous franchise center John Tavares left in free agency for the hometown Toronto Maple Leafs following Barzal's rookie campaign, it looked like the Islanders were heading down a dark path, but Long Island has since seen more playoff success than Toronto with two Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Barzal has been the premier face (literally) on this team that drastically changed its culture after Tavares' departure and even earned a $73.2 million contract to spend eight more years on the Island. Not bad at all for "the kid that won the Calder."