When the IslandersÂ open their regular season Thursday night, they will have two of the best players in the league taking the ice for them, Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock.
The Athletic NHL released its Top 100 Players tier list for the 2021 season yesterday and it was Barzal and Pulock who made it for the organization. Barzal was placed in the Tier 3 group under the â€œAll-Starâ€ umbrella while Pulock finds himself in the fourth tier for players who are at the â€œTop of the lineupâ€.
The newly extended Barzal â€” he and the Isles agreed to a new three-year deal over the weekend â€” many on the panel believe he hasnâ€™t reached â€œfranchise playerâ€ worthy level just yet. Â â€œMathew Barzal regarded as highly as he should be by the model, which doesnâ€™t see just how involved he is in transition. The franchise-player tier is a tough sell for now, with the net results including his production being great but not quite elite,â€ was how he was described at the moment.
The argument about Barzalâ€™s production is valid. Take out his Calder Trophy winning season in 2017-18 where he led the team with 85 points, and Barzal has only tallied 122 points Â and 37 goals. Now itâ€™s true, those numbers probably take a hit because of the defense-first mentality employed by head coach Barry Trotz. But Barzal is now being paid as an elite player, so his production needs to reflect that.
This is not lost on him too. He said on Saturday after signing the deal that â€œconsistencyâ€ was going to be the most important thing with him being paid $7M a year over the next three seasons
Pulock making the list comes as quite the welcome surprise.
Heâ€™s definitely emerged as the Islesâ€™ best and most reliable defenseman outside of his d-partner, Adam Pelech. Pulockâ€™s numbers at both ends of the ice have continued to improve each year, but he hasnâ€™t launchedÂ himself towards the upper echelon of d-men in the league.
This season could change that. He was was rewarded with a new two-year, 10M contract back in November and is considered to be on the rise. For right now, heâ€™s earned the title of becoming a dominant player.
So, with two of the Islanders most prominent players listed, the question needs to be asked: should there have been more?
Pelech and forward Brock Nelson deserve some consideration.
You could make the argument that Pelech should have made the list ahead of a guy like Jake Muzzin who was in the final tier as a 4C.
Pelech has evolved into one of the top defensive d-man in the over the last two seasons and remains criminally underrated. The offensive production isnâ€™t on the same level of Pulock, but youâ€™d have a hard time finding a guy whose so instrumental to their teamâ€™s success. Last season and the playoffs were perfect examples.
As for Nelson, thereâ€™s no question he is the Islesâ€™ second-best forward behind Barzal. His level of play has reached incredible heights under Trotz â€” 25+ goals and 50 or more points the past two seasons â€” and it doesnâ€™t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Mat Barzal is obviously the #Isles star, but it's time to start giving Brock Nelson the recognition he deserves. The way he's evolved under Trotz has been remarkable.
— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) January 11, 2021
One other name who could find himself on the list soon is Anthony Beauvillier.
His postseason performance opened up a lot of eyes and now heâ€™s expected to become an elite player this season.
Some might want to pull out there hair, but the cap manipulation Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello has been able to pull off is sorcery. Having to pay Andy Greene and Matt Martin â€” both recently re-signed â€” a combined $2.2M for this year is a nod to his genius.
Yes, Greeneâ€™s performance bonuses if he reaches them can have a negative effect on the cap in the summer, but Lou still deserves credit for getting him to sign below what he might have gotten on the open market.
Josh Ho-Sang cleared waivers to no ones surprise. Now itâ€™s on the team whether or not they want him in Bridgeport according to the New York Postâ€™s Mollie Walker. Ho-Sang intends to be there and hopefully the team gives him that chance.
The Coliseum is ready for its final, final go around. A happy and sad image at the same time.
Fresh sheet of ice is down at the Coliseum for the final #IslesÂ regular season to begin in the buildingâ€™s history
ðŸ“¸: (@TheDannyBaxter/IG) pic.twitter.com/kDzEdY05Um
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) January 12, 2021