Mathew Barzal had a brief glimpse of life in the NHL last season, before he was ultimately sent back to junior for the remainder of the campaign.
The 16th overall pick in 2015 played in two games for the Islanders and was then returned to Seattle, eventually becoming the most valuable player in the Western Hockey League playoffs — another promising development for the talented prospect forward.
The Islanders, who have 13 forwards under contract for next season, have stockpiled high-end talent up front, including Barzal. He made his debut last season, as did Josh Ho-Sang, and there may be opportunities for the younger players to crack the roster for 2017-18.
“Last year, I was maybe a little star-struck sometimes playing against [Nicklas] Backstrom and [Alex] Ovechkin and those guys,” Barzal recently told NHL.com. “This year, I just want to hopefully come in and not kind of feel that, just feel like I belong and that I can really play with those guys.”
Just over two years into his time with the Islanders, Barzal was recently mentioned in trade rumors involving Colorado’s Matt Duchene.
There’s been criticism of the way Colorado’s handled this. I do think everyone — including Duchene — would benefit from a fresh start, but the Avalanche need this deal. The Ryan O’Reilly trade didn’t work, and you can’t move two of those talents without getting some kind of win. They are looking for young players with term, and I think the guys they’ve targeted include Mathew Barzal and Ilya Sorokin from the Islanders; Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy from the Bruins; Mattias Ekholm from the Predators. (Before someone from Barstool comes at me, I don’t think the McAvoy conversation was a long one.)
Such a deal — if it were to ever happen in the future — would give New York two of the top three players selected from the 2009 NHL Draft, and highly talented No. 1 and 2 centers in John Tavares and Duchene.
Tavares has one year left on his deal, with an annual average value of $5.5 million, and the Islanders need to get him secured into a contract extension. Duchene has two years left on his deal, which has an AAV of $6 million, before he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Meanwhile, Barzal still has all three years left on his entry-level contract, according to CapFriendly, and shows plenty of promise based on his production in junior.