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Isles’ Mathew Barzal on the Sedins, NHL adjustment and Calder race (PHT Q&A)

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Nineteen and three. That’s how many multi-point and five-point games, respectively, Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders has recorded this season.

The rookie forward hit No. 19 on Tuesday night with a two-goal, three-point effort during a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Barzal’s 22nd goal of the season ended up being the game-winner. His 60th assist of the season made him the eighth rookie in NHL history to reach the mark.

It’s been a big deal for the 20-year-old Coquitlam, B.C. native. While his NHL season will come to an end on Saturday night, he’ll continue playing this spring after accepting an invite to represent what’s looking to be a stacked Canada squad at the World Championships in Denmark next month.

“When the best player in the world, at 20 years old, is going, Connor McDavid, it’s pretty easy for a guy like me, being 20, to say yes,” Barzal told Andrew Gross of Newsday this week.

A few weeks after the Worlds end, Barzal will be hopping on a plane to Vegas and picking up his 2018 Calder Trophy, which recognizes the NHL’s top rookie. The finalists won’t be announced until later this month, but it’s been clear that the Islanders forward will take home the honors.

We caught up with Barzal after an Islanders practice earlier this week.

Enjoy.

Q. Being a kid from outside of Vancouver, what did the Sedins mean to you as a young hockey player?

BARZAL: “It was a great. I watched them for 8-9 years and I could remember just being in awe of them cycling the puck and holding it for sometimes a minute, two minutes at a time. They were amazing to watch as a young guy and they were legends in the city.”

You got to participate in the Canucks’ SuperSkills event in 2011. What was it like being around Henrik and Daniel and their teammates?

“They stood out to be just how nice they were and how humble they were. Obviously, they were the two biggest superstars in Vancouver at the time, two most humble guys on the team. It’s such a statement to their character. It’s just kind of the people they are, I guess.”

Nearing the end of your first full season, what took you the longest to adjust to at the NHL level?

“I’d say the lifestyle, just being on your own more, being around older guys. I’m a younger guy, younger soul being around 16 year olds last year, going to being around 30 year olds with kids now. It was a little different at the start, but I love it and every guy is a great guy so they’ve made it easy on me.”

Lot of babysitting and dishes at the Seidenbergs?

“A little bit, yeah.”

Some floor hockey, too?

“Yeah, lot of hockey. Lately, not so much. I kind of just tell [the kids] to go upstairs and get lost, I’m tired today.”

Being in that Islanders room with guys like Seidenberg, Tavares, what are the biggest things you’ve learn off the ice from them?

“I’d say just how hard they work. The routine and just being maniacal about your body and that kind of stuff. Tavares is obsessed about getting better. Same with Seids. They’re so worried about their body and treating it well. That’s the biggest thing I take from it — just every single day you’ve got to take care of your body. You can’t have one good day and think that you’re all of a sudden feeling good. It’s literally eight months of the year that you have to dial in, and every single day they bring it.”

What was the biggest thing that surprised you being up here for a full season?

“The pace of play and how good some guys really are up here. You see them on TV and see Johnny and [Jordan Eberle] on TV growing up and these guys are unbelievable. But you get to see them every day in and out of practice, that kind of stuff. They’re pretty special players. When you go up against a guy like [Sidney] Crosby or [Claude] Giroux, that same thing happens.

“Another thing, maybe not really surprising, but it was just nice to see how the older guys treated a rookie like myself. You hear different things growing up how rookies get treated, but the whole time I’ve been here every guy’s just been really friendly to me and made me feel comfortable and poked me here and there. I love that stuff, so I would say that was a really nice surprise, just feeling like everyone’s got your back.”

Being sent down at the beginning of last year, what kind of motivation did that provide you for this season?

“I’m a pretty motivated guy to begin with so when I got sent back, I didn’t want to go down and just be too cool for a year since I had a little taste in the NHL. I went down and worked hard, had a good coach there [former NHLer Steve Konowalchuk], wasn’t thinking I was smarter or better than anything he said. I think that kind of mindset that the coaching staff and management here wanted me to go back with just really helped my progression last year.”

The rookie race was pretty exciting to watch for most of this season until Brock Boeser got hurt. When it was going back and forth, did you find yourself checking out what the other guys were doing every night?

“Oh yeah, every day. It’s kind of hard to ignore when it’s the TV the whole time and you’re getting Twitter mentions and Instagram [mentions]. It was fun. It was a great. Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen come June [Ed. note: I think we do.]. It was fun there when me and Brock [Boeser] had four or five lead changes in the matter of two weeks.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

TSN may have spoiled tonight’s NHL awards

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We were all tipped off about Montreal’s P.K. Subban winning this year’s Norris Trophy earlier this week, but there’s no way the other big award winners would get leaked early… Right?

On TSN’s Insider Trading segment Bob McKenzie, in speaking about Subban’s reported win, said other players were given a heads-up about who was going to take home what.

“In fact, Subban is the Norris Trophy winner. And now we’re hearing word that Jonathan Huberdeau will be in Chicago on Saturday. You can infer from that that the Florida Panther forward is going to be the rookie of the year.”

Darren Dreger followed that up saying that neither Sidney Crosby nor John Tavares would be in Chicago for the Hart Trophy award tonight and Alex Ovechkin, who is in Russia, would accept the award via video. While that’s not confirmation Ovechkin is going to win it, it’s about as close as it can get.

Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston says Chicago’s Jonathan Toews kept his Selke Trophy win a tight-knit secret with his family and that award winners have known for a while that they were victorious.

If you’re a fan of suspense, this was not the year for you to have a stake in the NHL awards as the Lindsay Award and Vezina Trophy are the only two left with an element of surprise for the time being.

Colorado’s Landeskog wins Calder Trophy

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After finishing tied for the rookie scoring lead (52 points) and second in goals (22), Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog captured the Calder Trophy at Wednesday night’s NHL Awards show.

The 19-year-old Swede beat out fellow rookies Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton) and Adam Henrique (New Jersey) for the honor. Landeskog did it on the strength of his plus-20 rating (tops among all Colorado players) while averaging 18:36 of ice time, most among all first-year forwards.

He was also one of just four rookies to average more than 1:20 per game on both the penalty kill and power play.

This marks the second straight season rookie of the year has gone to a forward. Last year, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner captured the award after posting 31G-32A-63PTS as an 18-year-old.

Landeskog becomes just the second Colorado player to ever win the award — the first was Chris Drury in 1999. Of course, the franchise did celebrate a pair of Calders while in Quebec: Peter Forsberg won it in 1995 and Peter Stastny won it in 1981.

Henrique, Landeskog and Nugent-Hopkins named Calder Trophy nominees

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The NHL has announced its three finalists for the Calder Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top rookie. This year, the nominees are New Jersey’s Adam Henrique, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

More, from the NHL:

In his second professional season, Henrique became one of the season’s bigger surprises. Injuries to Travis Zajac and Jacob Josefson opened the door for Henrique to make the team, and he made the most of his opportunity. Henrique spent most of the season as the team’s top-line center, skating between star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. He excelled in that role, and in 74 games he finished first among all rookies with 35 assists and third with 51 points.

[Landeskog] tied for the lead among all rookies with 52 points and was second with 22 goals. He led the Avalanche with a plus-20 rating while averaging 18:36 of ice time per game, tops among first-year forwards, and he was one of just four rookies to average more than 1:20 per game on both the power play and on the penalty kill.

[Nugent-Hopkins] finished with 52 points despite playing only 62 games — 20 fewer than Landeskog — because of a shoulder injury. The youngest regular in the NHL this season — he didn’t turn 19 until April 12 — he had 18 goals, three multi-goal games, and five assists in a game, Nov. 19 against Chicago. He was the fourth-ever 18-year-old to have a five-assist game, and the first since Kovalchuk on Jan. 19, 2002.

Some notes:

1) Snubs include Philly’s Matt Read (led all rookies with 24 goals), Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson (played in 83 games!) and Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, who led all first-year players with a +21 rating.

2) The last Avalanche player to win the Calder was Chris Drury in 1998-99 and the last Devils player was Scott Gomez in 1999-2000. No Oiler has ever won.

3) This is the second consecutive year all three nominees were forwards. Last year, Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner and Michael Grabner were the three finalists — the last non-forwards to be nominated for the Calder were Jimmy Howard and Tyler Myers in 2009-10 (the latter would end up winning.)

PHT Related

Poll: Who will win the 2012 Calder Trophy?

Is Landeskog leading the Calder race? Two NHL coaches think so

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Gabriel Landeskog has compiled a Calder Trophy-worthy resume this year — he’s the NHL rookie leader in shots on goal (258), tied for first in points (49), tied for first in goals (22) and is second in plus-minus (plus-20).

Now he’s got the backing of two head coaches.

The first one shouldn’t come as a surprise — it’s his own coach, Colorado bench boss Joe Sacco.

“Gabriel certainly has played like the rookie of the year all season long,” Sacco told the Vancouver Sun. “He’s been a very consistent player and he’s played in every situation possible for us. He does it with a strong work ethic. That’s the foundation of his success.”

Echoing those statements was Sacco’s coaching adversary for Wednesday’s Canucks-Avalanche contest at Rogers Arena — Alain Vigneault.

“He’s the best rookie in the league this year,” the Vancouver coach said. “In my mind, there are some other good rookies but he plays like a man right now and has a lot of skill to back it up.”

(It’s worth noting that Vigneault used to coach another rookie of the year candidate — Cody Hodgson — before he was shipped to Buffalo in exchange for Zack Kassian. By all accounts, AV and CoHo didn’t have the greatest relationship.)

Part of Landeskog’s success comes from his physical attributes (6-foot-1, 204-pounds) — they’ve allowed him to thrive late in the season, when other rookies have hit the wall. In February he scored 13 points in 12 games and has nine points through 14 games in March.

That said, he isn’t biting on the Calder talk.

“Rookie of the year? That’s a loaded question,” Landeskog said. “I don’t know. Obviously it would be a big honour but, at the same time, our goal is to make the playoffs.

“If we don’t, I’ll take some time off and see what I did well and what I can do better for next season.”