Mathew Barzal, the electrifying 20-year-old centerman of the New York Islanders, is well in the running for top rookie in the NHL. Through 57 games Barzal leads all rookies with 59 points and 43 assists. His resume which includes three 5-point games has been impressive. Barzal’s skating ability mesmerises defenders as proven by Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who says, “He’s by far the best skater in the league. It’s no question.… That’s the toughest matchup that I’ve had this year.” Barzal’s skating ability allows him to get in the right position where his playmaking ability separates him from his peers.
Barzal’s chemistry with offseason acquisition of Jordan Eberle has helped the Islanders become one of the more prolific offenses in the league, their defense is another story. The centerman’s journey began in Coquitlam, British Columbia where his ability as a youngster earned him the honor of being selected first overall in the WHL draft. As a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds he impressed NHL scouts, many had him as a top ten or even top five prospect in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft he was eventually selected by the Islanders with the 16th pick. The Islanders let Barzal develop in the junior league for two years.
Barzal was in the lineup for two games in 2016 but was sent back to Seattle to further develop his game. Barzal impressed in training camp and the next season and cracked the lineup. Despite not having any points in his first five games his ability didn’t go unnoticed. Since November Barzal has been by far and away the most complete first year player in the league and lives up to the buzz surrounding him.