When our New York Islanders selected Barzal in the first round (16th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, I’m sure they expected to have a very good prospect in their system that would eventually pan out to be an offensive contributor and make an impact on the team someday. When he was the final cut, Barzal went back to Seattle and returned to the Thunderbirds, winning the 2017 WHL championship. Barzal was also named WHL MVP of the playoffs with a 7&18, 25 points performance in 16 games.
For the Islanders, the 20-year-old Barzal was a major contributor this season, especially when paired with long time team-mate Anthony Beauvillier (who was the player to beat him out for that final roster spot that season) and 1st year Islander, Jordan Eberle. Barzal had such a break out year in his rookie season, the NHL named him one of the three finalists for rookie of the year and should be the favorite among the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to win the Calder Memorial Trophy. Brock Boeser (VAN) and Clayton Keller (ARI) had great years, but not like the one we saw written before our eyes. Barzal had 20 more points than Keller, 30 more than Boeser who missed 20 games due to injury. Barzal also had an impressive 1.04 pts/game average (with less shots on goal) over Keller (0.79) and Boeser (.089) and was the only one among the three non-playoff team rookies to end the season with a plus rating and 27 PP points. Mathew Barzal even led his own team in points (85) and assists (63) in an exciting 82 game rookie campaign along with an impressive 22 goal scoring tally.
The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to "the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League." Barzal wasn’t just a solid rookie, he quickly became a solid NHL player who gave the opposition problems trying to contain his swift skating, powerful and adept puck handling and alert play-making. The NHL awards will be handed out at the Hard Rock in Vegas on June 20th and the choice for Barzal securing the trophy should be an easy one.
As mentioned in Part 1 of my Season Recap, Barzal was one of only five NHL rookies with 63 assists in a season with Crosby being the only active Alumni of this club. Barzal was mentioned in the same breath as Islander’s greats, Brian Trottier (63 assists), Denis Potvin (rookie to lead team in pts and assists). In total points, Barzal ranks third just behind Trottier (95 in ’75-76) and Bossy (‘77-78). His 9 game with at least 3 points and 3 five point games and scored his first NHL hat trick against the Jets in December. Don’t forget that Barzal was drafted by the Islanders after the Bruins passed on the 13th, 14th & 15th picks in his draft year. The Isles traded Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for the 16th (Barzal) and 33rdpicks.
We came that close. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. In this case, Isles fans everywhere are so glad this one did. The future is still bright.