The prospect of Mathew Barzal making the Islanders’ opening night roster should have been a foregone conclusion before last night’s preseason game against the Devils in Brooklyn. That’s just how prolific the young center has been in his first two games, scoring a goal in each and standing out like a sore thumb with his electric speed, puck control and all-around dynamic impact on the game.
But then last night he went and did this:
What a beauty.
Barzal looks determined to make this team. He has been the Islanders best player in a preseason during which Doug Weight has talked about fielding the best possible team on opening night:
“If they earn it, they’re playing. We want to win Oct. 6...I’m taking the players who earned that spot on the team.”
- Doug Weight
It should go without saying, at this point, that the best possible team the Islanders can field on opening night includes no. 13. Yet I just went ahead and said it anyway. As did the team’s head coach after the game:
Media: "Does Barzal make the team based on what you've seen so far?"— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) September 26, 2017
Dougie: "Yes." pic.twitter.com/ynRtMdas2h
Barzal’s been a threat anytime he’s had the puck on his stick. Watch him make something out of nothing on this offensive zone shift earlier in the first period. The way he aggressively pops out into space to receive the pass, the shoulder fake, the hands, the poise and patience with the puck, it’s sensational.
After the goal, you can see Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy complaining to the ref about getting interfered with at the blue line by Anders Lee. Does Lovejoy have a case? Keep an eye on these two guys in this clip:
Was that interference?
I think it probably was, yes. And I think Lee could’ve been a bit more slick and subtle about it. But more importantly, I don’t give a shit. Barzal looked like he was gonna burn Lovejoy to the outside anyway. And this play was simply too sweet to care about any of that.
Oh, by the way, did you notice Brian Strait on that play? Here, take one more look:
What you’re feeling right now is called déjà vu, which is French for “I think I’ve seen that guy trip over the red line before.” And you have seen that, my friend. We’ve all seen it.
And now, we’ve all seen a glimpse of the brilliance of Mathew Barzal. We have seen a glimpse of the future. His time has come.