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New York Islanders Top 25 Under 25: Eager to see Mathew Barzal at #2

We think the Islanders' top forward prospect is good enough to be in the lineup next season.

We like him!
We like him!
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While older peers were sent home early, Mathew Barzal received the longest look among New York Islanders forward prospects at 2015 training camp. Rather than pouting -- and reports were he was quite disappointed to miss the final cut -- he followed his return to juniors with WHL Seattle by being even better than he was before.

It's hard not to get excited about this player. More so, and a little alarmingly, given their free agency and roster questions it's hard to imagine the Islanders taking another step forward over the next two seasons without Barzal making an impact. Yes, that soon.

It's a good bet he gets a longer look at camp in the fall, as much as a nine-game stretch after that, and then...a regular spot in the lineup? That's always a risky projection, but the Isles haven't had a forward prospect this dynamic since John Tavares was a lock for his first NHL roster. There has been talk that they want to make sure he makes it as a center, but many a center has eased his way into the league with time on the wing. That shouldn't be the main factor keeping him in juniors for another year.

But I'll let others fawn over he who neither Boston nor Edmonton wanted at the draft a year ago.

How We Voted (and Why)

King (CIL) Keith Mike B. McNally Garik Dominik Leboff Les
3 5

Obviously from those rankings we are collectively holding the highest hopes for Barzal. It'll be interesting to see if he meets those and takes the top spot on this list next time.

David King (CanadianIslesLifer):

Barzal hasn't played a game in the NHL yet, but his ceiling is higher than any other prospect. Add to that, there isn't currently a player under 25 on the NHL roster who you absolutely would not move. If Barzal pans out, he'll be the second best forward behind JT.

Barzal's skating and play making are both at an elite level. The speed in which he can accelerate allows him to pull away from, or blow by slower opponents. His vision and stick handling are also elite.

The knock on Barzal is that he is such a great playmaker, he doesn't shoot the puck enough. This is probably a fair assessment. Barzal has a quick release and an above average wrist shot. He's scored a number of highlight reel goals. In my view, Barzal is more dominant offensively than Ryan Strome was at the same age.

Defensively, Barzal plays a solid two-way game. His high hockey I.Q. allows him to anticipate the play and cause turnovers. Barzal does everything, he even blocks shots.

Barzal projects as a top 6 centre who can play in all situations in all three zones.


If this list was purely "potential" for me, he would be number one. Looks to have JT like puck possession skills, but faster. Plays all situations. Wish he has some more goals, but looks like he could make linemates lethal.

Mike B.:

My bias is always towards people already making NHL contributions, since even the most electric prospect can be shorted by injuries; but Barzal - fingers crossed - can surpass every non-Tavares forward on the Islanders.


Probably the most exciting of the Islanders prospects, Barzal's ppg increased from .915 to 1.295 to 1.517 in his 3 WHL seasons. What might be more impressive is his goals per game increased from .237 to .273 to .466. Barzal was the subject of a myriad of 'did he do that?' goal videos posted on social media. Hopefully we'll see him in an Islanders jersey sooner rather than later.

Les (HockeyGoalieEh):

Matthew Barzal lit up the WHL, a league that's normally known for its defense. His numbers were incredibly impressive and he showed that he wasn't a defensive liability. He should be a gem at the NHL level.


No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one autumnal face.

Previously in the Top 25 Under 25