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Flying High: Barzal named WHL playoff MVP as Thunderbirds take championship with OT win

The remarkable year for the 2015 first round selection continues.

Seattle Thunderbirds v Vancouver Giants
this guy
Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images

Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal will finish his junior hockey career as a champion thanks to the Seattle Thunderbirds’ 4-3 OT win over the Regina Pats on Sunday, which gave the team its first ever title.

Ironically, Barzal didn’t have a point in the deciding Game 6 after scoring in 19 straight playoff games dating back to last season for the T-Birds. He was the hands-down star of Game 5, netting two goals and an assist to give Seattle the series lead. The center finishes this year’s playoffs with a pretty ridiculous 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 16 games, and was named the WHL’s Playoff MVP for his efforts. A few three assist games will help pile up the points.

Seattle’s now off the Mastercard Memorial Cup™, the final team to be added to this year’s field. They’ll face the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, the OHL’s Erie Otters (with Ryan Strome’s brother Dylan) and the host Windsor Spitfires, also of the OHL. The tournament starts Friday, but the T-Birds will have off until Saturday, when they face Erie.

Here’s the game-winning goal, scored by undrafted Alexander True. You’ll soon see Barzal join the celebration pile on. Regina lead 3-1 until there were about eight minutes to go in the third. Seattle tied it on Keegan Kolesar’s goal with less than three minutes left, and True won it at 12:36 of OT. Seattle lost in the WHL finals last year to Brandon.

Barzal was selected by the Islanders in the first round of the 2015 draft at No. 16 overall, thanks to a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for prospect Griffin Reinhart. It was a whole long story in and of itself.

Barzal made the big club out of camp this year, but things got weird right away. Those two games he played for the Islanders early this season, including the one against the Capitals in which he took three penalties, seem like a lifetime ago and his disjointed experience and return to junior didn’t seem to hurt him at all. He had 79 points in 41 regular season games (on 10 goals and 69 assists) and was named the league’s Western Conference Player of the Year. He also played on Team Canada at this year’s World Junior Championship, where they lost to Team USA and fellow Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows.

Now he can add WHL champion and, maybe, Memorial Cup champion to the list of milestones he collected in his final year in junior. Congrats, dude. Go get it.