Mathew Barzal: The Most Exciting Young Player In Hockey
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Mathew Barzal: The Most Exciting Young Player In Hockey

Getting NHL fans acclimated with the New York Islanders 20-year old phenom.

Mathew Barzal: The Most Exciting Young Player In Hockey
Sporting News

As an eighteen-year-old New York Islanders supporter, watching hockey has been a rather dismal experience for me. From the glory days of Alexei Yashin to the horrific 2008-2009 campaign when Mark Streit, a defenseman, finished the season with seventeen more points than any forward, remaining loyal to the Islanders has been a fatiguing lifelong adventure.

Imagine the frustration of trying to play a game of Fortnite and the internet suddenly crashes. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt watching every Islanders game from 2006-2014.

I guess it hasn’t been as bad as I make it out to be, though. The Islanders have been able to stockpile top draft picks due to their consistent mediocrity, which has led to the acquisition of promising players such as Josh Bailey, Ryan Pulock, Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, Kieffer Bellows and, most notably, four-time all-star and current team captain John Tavares.

During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, however, the Islanders traded defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers for the sixteenth pick in that year’s draft. They subsequently selected Mathew Barzal, a centerman from British Columbia, an individual who has already displayed that he has the potential to progress into one of the league’s most prolific players.

In what has been a mostly disappointing tenure for Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, Barzal has been a diamond in the rough.

Since starting college at Rowan in September, I didn’t have the chance to see this year’s Islanders in person until winter break. Despite this, I have streamed nearly every game and been a witness to the maturity and poise that Barzal showcases each time he steps on the ice.

When I finally did have the opportunity to attend an Isles game, a Sunday matinee matchup against the New Jersey Devils in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, it was mesmerizing to observe Barzal’s skill in person. In the second period of that game, Barzal cleverly danced his way through the Devil’s defense before magically threading the needle to linemate Anthony Beauvillier to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.

Not only did the Islanders come out victorious in that game, but Barzal impressed once again, strengthening his candidacy for the Calder Trophy, an honor presented each year to the NHL’s top rookie.

Barzal, or “Barzy” as many of his Islanders teammates refer to him as, has been a pleasant surprise for the Islanders this year. Critics claim that Barzal does not have the size to prosper at the NHL level, but he has proved doubters wrong thus far, accumulating fifty points in just forty-nine games played this season, a milestone reached only by NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin in the past two decades.

With the acceleration of Connor McDavid, the agility of Jeff Skinner, the vision of Crosby, and the work ethic of Andrew Cogliano, Barzal has already transformed himself into a major threat to opposing teams. Following an overtime loss to the Islanders on January 15, Montréal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty called Barzal “the best skater in the league” and claimed that the 20-year old has been “the toughest matchup that I’ve had this year” (via Arpon Basu Twitter).

That’s high praise for a guy who hasn’t even played a half-century worth of NHL games.

It has been yet another exasperating year for Isles diehards plagued by the careless defense, sloppy goaltending, and the possibility of John Tavares leaving following the expiration of his contract in June. For many fans, such as myself, Barzy’s emergence provides hope for the future.

If he keeps performing at such a high level and lighting up the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden, which he’s already done twice this season, the sky's the limit. Remember the name: Mathew Barzal.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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