Islanders' Rookie Barzal Impressing in a Big Way

By Patrick Hoffman

The New York Islanders have been one of the toughest teams to figure out this season.

They were great to start the season and at one point, they were even atop the Metropolitan Division. They were scoring a lot of goals and playing good enough defense to win hockey games.

Fast forward to now and they find themselves outside the playoff picture. They are not that far out, but the way they are playing defensively and in goal is definitely alarming enough that it could keep them out of the postseason.

With all that said, there is one player that has not been tough to figure out. In fact, this player can be looked at as one of his team's best players.

I am talking about rookie Mathew Barzal. Barzal, 20, has far exceeded anyone's expectations and has taken the league by storm this year.

As of this writing (February 16, 2018), Barzal has 62 points (16 goals and 46 assists). He is currently (February 16, 2018) tied for second on the team in scoring with Josh Bailey (15 goals and 47 assists) and is just one point behind team captain John Tavares (29 goals and 34 assists for 63 points).

In terms of rookie scoring, Barzal is even better. He is first in both points and assists and as of this writing (February 16, 2018), is 13 points ahead of the player in second place, Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser.

Barzal has also accomplished the following feats in his first season:

He  is the first Islander to score over 60 points in 40 years when Mike Bossy (91 points) and Brian Trottier (95 points) accomplished the feat.

He is the first rookie to have three five-point games in a season before his 21st birthday.

He already has nine points in his first three games against his team's biggest rival, the New York Rangers.

Barzal is someone that has played well on both ends of the ice. He skates hard, knows how to back check, can force giveaways, and is someone that always wants the puck.

What's also great about Barzal is that he is playing so well in his first stretch run towards the postseason. He is putting up a lot of points, creating a lot of offense, and playing with the same speed and instincts every single night.

This player has a bright future and will be welcomed with more than open arms once this team goes back to its true home in Long Island.

It’s these stories, experiences and passion that bring us together in the great game.  

Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.caKukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35.