GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 17: Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders during the second period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 17, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Mathew Barzal is shining again for the New York Islanders and will be expected to continue to carry the team when/if the season resumes.

When New York Islanders captain John Tavares left to join the Toronto Maple Leafs last year, fans didn’t expect anyone to be able to fill his shoes. Enter Mathew Barzal.

Before the season was suspended due to COVID-19, the young centerman was playing great hockey. The 22-year-old has 60 points in 68 games coming in the form of 19 goals and 41 assists. He’s also had 17 multi-point games this season. He’s still the team’s best player and it isn’t close.

He’s one of the league’s best skaters (he won the fastest skater competition at the 2020 All-Star weekend) and is an exceptional puck-handler and playmaker. During the 2017-18 season in which he won the Calder Trophy, Barzal set career-high numbers in goals (22), assists (63), and points (85).

The Islanders had issues scoring goals during the latter part of the season because many players went through cold streaks, including Barzal at times. As mentioned in the season review of Anders Lee, the Islanders’ top line hasn’t been as productive as fans would hope.

Lee has 43 points in 68 games and Jordan Eberle has 40 points in 58 games. Barzal may be able to match or surpass his career-high 22 goals, he’s only three away, but because the top-line has had its struggles, he likely won’t put up jaw-dropping numbers.

When and if the season does resume, Barzal is going to continue to deal with the pressure of putting up points for his team. If the Islanders can fix their play and get back in the playoffs, Barzal will still be expected to carry the load. In eight career playoff games, all of which came during last year’s postseason, Barzal notched seven points, coming in the form of two goals and five assists.

In his three years in the NHL, Barzal has emerged as one of the most promising centers in a league full of talent, especially young talent, at his position. He also headlines the class of this year’s restricted free agents. At $14.6 million, the Islanders have less salary-cap space to work with than most teams who have RFAs, but the Islanders must and will make signing Barzal to a long-term deal a priority. He’s a special player and has the potential to be a star.

However, if the Islanders want to take advantage of Barzal’s talent, they’re going to need to get him a productive winger. It’s been clear that they’re going to have to get more offensive talent and providing Barzal with a winger who can consistently put up good numbers would take the team to a whole new level.

Because Barzal is such a great skater, puck-handler, and playmaker, he’s incredible at penetrating the offensive zone. There have been too many instances of him doing so and his linemates coming up short. The Islanders need someone who can get the puck from him and put it in the net, and vice versa.

Barzal’s consistently great play over the years is proof that he’s going to be a star for the Islanders for years to come and has the potential to become one of the best centers in the league.

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