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Barzal returned to Seattle, ending Islanders grand double rookie experiment of 2016

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He’ll be back next season. But it’s still a bummer.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders
Yep. That’s an NHL game.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Islanders announced this morning that they have returned Mathew Barzal to his junior team in Seattle. The center played two of the team’s first 13 games, racking up no points and three penalties in an NHL debut that won’t soon be forgotten.

The official announcement has quotes about how tough the decision was but confirmed that the kid has fans beyond just us.

"He's a pretty proud and motivated kid and that's what's going to make him a really good hockey player," John Tavares said. "I think more and more from last year to this year you see the improvement, getting the taste of what it's like and practicing every day and getting a couple games in can go a long way for him."

"It'll be good for him to start playing, a young guy needs to play and he'll get an opportunity at the World Juniors which is a great way to develop, play against some of the best players around the world in your age group."

Barzal and fellow rookie Anthony Beauvillier, both 2015 first round picks, made the team out of training camp thanks to pre-season games that impressed the coaches. The problem for Barzal is that while the talent was there, a roster spot necessarily wasn’t.

The official company line is that Beauvillier can play the wing whereas Barzal isn’t quite adept there yet and is relegated only to center, where the Islanders already have four they’re set with in John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas. Barzal also lagged behind Beauvillier defensively, and was prone to turnovers like most normal 19-year old junior stars are.

While all that may be true (seriously, I have no idea. I’m not a hockey coach), it’s still disappointing that he wasn’t used more, especially considering that the Islanders waived useful forward P.A. Parenteau before the season specifically to keep Barzal, Beauvillier and third (and still unplayed) goalie Jean-Francois Berube on the roster.

(BTW 1: Parenteau scored his fifth goal of the season for New Jersey last night and added a goal in the shootout to help the Devils beat Carolina. Not that I’m bitter or anything).

Sending Barzal back to the WHL to get playing time is absolutely the right call right now. No doubt the smart, responsible center will take lessons from his two months as a pro and be back stronger than ever next season.

Meanwhile, Beauvillier is still on the roster although he’s been scratched for the last two games. Perhaps the team is still deciding whether or not to send him back to his junior team in Shawinigan.

That would be a shame, too. Let’s remember the dynamic diaper duo in happier times, a.k.a last week at a Nets game with teammate Shane Prince.

(BTW 2: I woke up this morning and found out Barzal had favorited this very Tweet of mine. Take care, young man. We’re hoping to see you again real soon.)