Before the season started Matt Barzal was set to be on the opening night roster, now before the season started a ton of writers and Islander fans had a lot of praise for Barzal, they knew his skating ability was above and beyond the average player, they understood his hockey awareness was top notch. I am not sure many Islander fans knew Barzal would be making this big of an impact though. I don’t think it was certain he would be a number two center to start the season, as it was assumed he would need to work to earn that spot.
After 27 games Barzal has made a monumental impact on the Islanders roster and for a 20-year-old forward to play as if he’s been in the league for 10-years speaks volumes to Barzals game. Through 27 games, Barzal is nearly a point per game player, he has 7 goals, 19 assists, and 9 power play points. Despite Barzal’s high regard for the Calder trophy, this kid is breaking through the league in a big fashion.
Now, you may be wondering how in the world am I noticing this now? I am not, I knew this for a while now, but after watching his assist to Jordan Eberle and his goal last night this kid is on another level. Hands down the best edge work and skating ability among rookies and maybe even every NHL player, his ability to open the ice and create offensive chances is unbelievable. You notice how Barzal often opens up and turns his back to the defender, while his head is up, puck in front of him, this gives him that extra room to move and challenge defenders to guess where he is going to be moving. Barzal has propelled Jordan Eberle’s game and has single handily made that second line a dangerous forward group.
One thing, I’ve noticed with all the credit going to Barzal and all eyes on the new rookie, Josh Ho-Sang has not looked great. Could it be that Barzal is taking the spotlight and where Ho-Sang excels(in the spotlight) is being taken away from him causing his game to be downgraded as well. In just 17 games this season, Ho-Sang has collected only two goals and 10 assists with a -3 plus/minus and 1 power play point. It makes it hard for anyone to realize anyone but Barzal out there and it definitely has not helped Ho-Sang’s game, as he is being slotted on the third line and has not been anything worthy of note this season.