Islanders Mathew Barzal ranked among top 30 NHL players for 2021-22

With each passing year, Mathew Barzal has continued his ascent towards being recognized as one of the best players in the NHL has to offer.

The Islanders’ star center has garnered respect from pundits and fans alike, and on Sunday during NHL Network’s NHL Top Players countdown, it was revealed where he slots in among the elite for the 2021-22 season.

Barzal ranked it at number 29 as the only Islander represented so far. Just like the three years prior, he might be the only one. You could have easily made the case for a Brock Nelson, Semyon Varlamov or Adam Pelech to make the list. But Barzal has the star power that comes with being a top-50 contender.

The newest ranking now makes it three straight years Barzal has made the list. It’s also the third consecutive time he’s moved up significantly. The 24-year-old placed in at 42nd before the 2019-20 season and 49th in 2018-19.

“The thing that really astounds me where Barzal is concerned is that ability to escape laterally,” NHL Network analyst Stu Grimson said. “Side to side he’s among the best players in the game today. Top-end speed, top-end puck handling, he’s got a great shot. But that ability to change direction laterally, to throw off false information … when you get this player underneath the face-off dots, underneath the hash marks in the offensive zone, I think he’s as hard to contain, as hard to defend against, as there is in this game today.”

Barzal slotting in at 30 seems like a very good spot based on the progression he’s seen in his career. He once again led the Islanders in points in 2019-20 and was a clutch performer in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. That said, there are still parts of his game that can get even stronger which Grimson also made note of.

“Here’s a guy, you go back a couple of years of 60-point seasons back-to-back,” he added. “When he steps into the NHL he rattles off 80-plus points to win the Calder. To me, he’s on the brink of getting closer to that peak physical strength. I think I see an upward trajectory, upward tick towards in Barzal’s game. I think he gets to that point-per-game we’re accustomed to seeing.”

Barzal will certainly have the fullest of opportunities to get back to that play now with Anders Lee returning from injury and a goal scorer in newly re-signed Kyle Palmieri flanking him on the first line. Those two players are certainly the best linemates in terms of skill that the 25-year-old has been with since entering the league. Barzal was affected big time by Lee going down last year, so those two re-igniting their chemistry should make be something to watch for.

Individually, there are expectations that Barzal can take it to another level at both ends of the ice with this being the fourth year of the Barry Trotz regime. He’s still not on a level of say Sidney Crosby or Patrice Bergeron, but he isn’t as far as some may think. This being year number five for him could be when Barzal’s defensive game takes a huge leap forward.

The Islanders have Stanley Cup aspirations this year, and Barzal will once again play a key role in finally getting them over the hump. Now seen as a top-30 player in this league — or higher if you perceive him that way — he’s in a echelon of special talents and continues to make strides as one of the game’s best.

 

 

 

Islanders’ Mathew Barzal must be more disciplined this upcoming season

Islanders fans have every right to be enamored with Mathew Barzal. The star-studded ability and excitement he brings to the game is infectious. But, and Isles fans know this well, there’s one element of his game this needs to take a turn this year: discipline.

Barzal, for all the good he does, still shows he is prone to taking unnecessary penalties.

Last year, Barzal led the Islanders in penalty minutes in the regular season with 48. Yes, he LED the team in PIMs.

Imagine someone like Nathan MacKinnon or Connor McDavid doing that? Unheard of.

Barzal being at the top of that stat-line is just unacceptable from any view point. Mind you: that amount of PIMs came in a shortened 56-game season. If it were a full 82-game slate, Barzal would have been on pace for NINETY-SIX penalty minutes! (WHAT?)

In each the three years prior, his time in the sin bin has gone up. History tells us that’s not something you want from your best player, let alone the forward who is the driver on offense. So, this trend needs to change.

 

The Islanders can’t afford to have Barzal in the box nearly the amount he was the previous campaign. Barzal is too good of a player to be putting himself in those kinds of situations. But again, this is something he needs realize and show when things aren’t going his way once the season begins. The latter half for his lack of discipline has at times drawn the ire of Isles head coach Barry Trotz.

“He’s leading our team in penalties right now,” Trotz said after a game in March last year. Barzal took a bad penalty in the o-zone which led to the opponent doubling the lead and eventually a 3-1 loss. “That should be Matt Martin or Casey Cizikas or someone like that. Barzy should not lead our team in penalty minutes.”

At this point of his career, Barzal should be able to keep his emotions in check. There’s no denying he is a fiery player, but to now be in the same conversation with the McDavids, MacKinnon’s, Crosbys, Auston Matthews’ of the world, it comes with a lot of attention and responsibility. Discipline needs to become a key component of his game.

Are there still going to be cheap shots and hard checks thrown Barzal’s way? Probably. A player of his ilk, that just comes with the territory. But he must not retaliate or take the unnecessary kind of fouls he has taken in the past.

That part of Barzal’s game still needs some fine tuning and hopefully will be on display this year. The expectations for he and and the team are too high for him not have more control of himself.

 

 

 

Tonight could be a defining moment for Islanders’ Mathew Barzal

Games like the ones the Islanders have tonight don’t come around often.

A chance to make it to the third round for the second consecutive season. A chance to knock off the mighty Boston Bruins in a series where they came in as the less-talented team and a true underdog. A chance for the team to celebrate a moment with their fans they deserved to have last summer.

But even with all of those possibilities, it’s a chance for a defining moment for the face of the franchise.

Mathew Barzal was drafted by the Islanders back in 2015 with the sole purpose of thriving for nights like this evening. When he arrived on the scene, Barzal was in the shadow of the team’s most notorious name, John Tavares. Once Tavares bolted for Toronto in 2018, all eyes shifted to the 20-year-old at the time after he won the Calder Trophy that season.

Many believed that Barzal could become the team’s next star; they were right. Barry Trotz, who was hired that summer, did too. “He wants to be one of the leaders of the team,” Trotz said three years ago. “I think obviously with Johnny moving on to Toronto, he feels that he has to fill a bigger void.”

Fast forward to now, this is Barzal’s squad. He might not wear the “C” on his sweater — that honor belongs to Anders Lee respectively — but he’s the Isles’ most important player. And it took him some time these playoffs, but he’s finally showing it in droves.

Barzal’s been the anchor for the Isles in this series since his breakout performance in game two. He’s recorded six points in his last four games, including back-to-back multi-point contests in games four and five.

“Honestly, it’s the playoffs,” Barzal said following Game 4. “As much as I’d love to produce every night, just it’s so tight out there, and sometimes it just doesn’t come that easy. It’s more so, when it’s not coming offensively that night, just make sure I’m not on the ice for any goals against or making that block or just trying to get the puck out. Just playing sound hockey, a lot of shifts are just 50-50, and you just got to grind it out.”

That quote on its own shows Barzal has taken on a leadership role in this round, if not for his emphatic gesture to the Nassau Coliseum crowd after he was named the first star of game four.

The Islanders have gone through a lot to get to this point tonight. They’ve done it as a collective unit. The head coach will say that and so will the the players. Barzal though has been at the forefront of it all from the moment he became “the guy”.

“There’s no give in that kid,” teammate Casey Cizikas has said.

A potential clinching Game 6 at home tonight is another chance for Barzal and the Isles to do something special. The lights will be shining again on him. It’s could be his defining moment.

If you think Barzal and his mates are going to be revved up for tonight, then the crowd inside the Coliseum will be on an even different level. Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy’s “New York Saints” comment after Game 5 stoked the flames for the fanbase who were already going to create an insane atmosphere.

You wouldn’t hear Trotz say the same thing — as he showed by his reaction in his own postgame presser — but he knows the fans will bring it.

“Probably like it has been the last couple of games…crazy and loud,” he said yesterday.  “They’re fun games.  The fans make a big difference.”

 

 

 

Islanders must look to Barzal for leadership with Anders Lee out till next year

What the Islanders and their fans feared the most came to a head this morning.

Captain Anders Lee, who got hurt in last Thursday’s win over New Jersey, is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The latest development comes as a crushing blow for Lee, as he was in the midst of a terrific season where he had already 19 points in 27 games.

Lee’s absence will be felt both on and off the ice. Some will even say it was eminent in last night’s 3-1 loss to Washington, the Islanders’ first defeat after recording nine straight wins. In that loss to their was a moment in the game that played a pivotal role in the outcome.

Just after the midpoint of the second period with the Isles down one, Mathew Barzal took a needless penalty in the offensive zone when he cross checked Caps’ d-man Nick Jensen. On the ensuing power play, the Islanders went down 2-0 on an Alex Ovechkin bomb and never seemed to recover.

The reason for pointing out that specific sequence is because with Lee sidelined till the start of next season, the Isles must now look to Barzal to be a leader in his place.

You can talk all about the veteran leadership the club has with the Josh Baileys, Brock Nelson’s, Matt Martin’s, etc. But the fact of the matter is Barzal is the Isles’ best player, their most important player and has to be “the guy” moving forward. He has already taken that mantle in some sense with his exceptional play on the ice this year, but this situation with Lee provides an even bigger challenge and maybe a welcoming one at that for the 23-year-old. And it goes beyond the scoresheet.

Barzal made his intentions clear when he signed his new deal in training camp that he wanted to be a team leader. Well now is his chance.

“I think personally, as much as signing a new deal and obviously it’s more than my rookie contract, but my expectation’s the same thing, just give it my best and work hard,” he said when he signed his new deal. “Now being paid a substantial amount, I know consistency’s a huge thing; there’s no nights off. I’m really going to make that a key in my next three years, is to really just be consistent and just work hard and move my feet at all times.”

For the aspirations the organization has thinking the rest of the way — Stanley Cup or bust — Barzal taking this extra responsibility head on will go a long way in him not only establishing himself even more as one of the league’s top players but earning even more respect.

“[Barzal] is a special guy, a special player,” were the words of Lee about Barzal before the season. “He’s always got something great to say and he’s always got some great play to make. He brings it every day, he’s fun to be around and he’s just someone that cares deeply about not only his game, but the guys around him. I think that’s what makes him a special person. He’s the cornerstone of our team a little bit here.”

Things will be different now for the Islanders with Lee’s setback. G.M. Lou Lamoriello made it clear this morning the club’s outlook at the trade deadline has now shifted; that in part because of the $7 million provided with Lee going on LTIR. In regards to leadership though, the door is now open for Barzal to elevate himself. Penalties like he took Tuesday night are a reminder of things Barzal must try to avoid if he is going to be considered a leader.

Because that’s what he’s going to need to be for the Isles the rest of this season and possibly beyond.

—

The one positive to come out of last night’s loss continues to be the goal scoring of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom. The 20-year-old tallied the Isles’ only goal on the evening on the power play in the third period.

 

The excitement factor and how it pertains to the Islanders

If you haven’t noticed by now, the Islanders are playing an exciting brand of hockey. Entering Tuesday night’s tilt in D.C. against the Capitals, the Isles are the hottest club in the league having won their last nine consecutive games. Plus, they are currently riding a 12-game point streak and have lost just four times — twice in regulation, twice in OT all to Pittsburgh — in their last 20 games.

A key element to that surge has been the team’s offense scoring a lot more. But several of those tallies have come in rousing fashion. And those thrilling red lights have been off the stick of undoubtedly the club’s most pulsating forwards, Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom.

Even on Sunday in the shootout, the freshman Wahlstrom’s game-winner in the shootout was a snipe job that he zipped past Devils’ goalie Scott Wedgewood. So that got me thinking about which brings more excitement out of an Isles fan right now.

Is it when the puck is on Barzal’s stick at any time? Or when the puck is on Wahlstrom’s tape and he’s about to shoot?

Isles fans in a 24-hour poll voted Barzal over Wahlstrom, with him getting 64% as opposed to Wahlstrom’s 36%.

Looking at the results, the underlying factor seems to be is that Barzal is dangerous whenever the puck is with him. He’s only gotten better in that area and been dazzling blue and orange diehards going all the way back to his Calder Trophy-winning campaign in 2017-18. This year he’s taken it to a whole other level, exemplified by this masterpiece below.

Wahlstrom’s wicked shot and ability to score at the drop of a hat is a new thing almost for Islanders’ fans in a sense. The Isles have been looking for a sniper for close to half a decade now. The “Wahligator” as he’s been dubbed in the room might just be that specific guy with his capabilities.

“It gives us a threat and obviously a shot,” head coach Barry Trotz said a few weeks back when talking about his rookie forward’s electric release.

The Islanders haven’t had this type of get you to the edge of your seat type duo since the dynasty days of Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier.

Those studs became Hall of Famers.

It’s way too early to even put Barzal and Wahlstrom in any such conversation, but the amount of exhilarating feels they can bring out of fans have made them and the team incredibly fun to watch.

—

There’s been no word on Noah Dobson’s status for whether he will play tonight after he and J.G. Pageau sat out Sunday’s win due to showing up on the NHL’s COVID list. Pageau came off yesterday, but Dobson could again be absent which means another dose of Sebastian Aho for the Isles.

Aho was impressive Sunday (he recorded an assist on Kieffer Bellows’ opening goal) after not having suited up this season and in close to 1,100 days in an NHL game.

“I haven’t played hockey in pretty much a year so it was different,” he acknowledged on Sunday in the postgame. “I felt okay, I made some good plays and some not so good plays, but that’s to be expected. Overall, I felt okay. It was fun.”

—

Everyone knows how wonderful the franchise’s new hone at UBS Arena is going to be. But all the pictures, live cams, updates don’t do it justice with how spectacular a facility it’s going to be. I took a tour of the building for the first time yesterday and it was incredible what is coming for the team and the fans.

Just walking up the stairs to where you can see the ice on the upper level elicited a tingle down my spine.

 

Islanders’ GM Lou Lamoriello has high expectations for Mathew Barzal this season

The Islanders’ season is less than a week old, but that hasn’t kept g.m. Lou Lamoriello from having a few things to say about his club’s start.

Lamoriello did a radio spot with Sirius NHL Radio yesterday after the Isles’ 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night. It was a very candid and open interview, probably some would say the most open the Islanders general manager has been to date.

One of the main topics discussed was Mathew Barzal and Lou’s expectations for him in this shortened season.

“What we expect from Mat is to do the things that god has given him with his talent,” Lamoriello said.

Barzal is now in his fifth season in the NHL and he’s just agreed to a three-year, $7M deal on January 9th. That contract put him with captain Anders Lee as the highest-paid player on the team. He’s also considered the Islanders’ best player from an offensive standpoint; the 23-year-old has led the team in points three straight seasons.

Lamoriello though is looking for more from his stud center beyond the scoresheet.

“Not worry about scoring, but just worrying about both ends of the ice,” he said. “He has worked at that, been outstanding and made that commitment. “He wants to be an Islander. He said that loud and clear. He’s been great. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with better edges. He’s certainly an integral part of this team.”

It’s true that Barzal has gotten better in some of those areas, but he still hasn’t reached that echelon where he’s one of the more consistent two-way centers in the sport. That’s expected to change this year. Lou knows it. He knows it.

Barzal even made it a sticking point after signing his new deal that consistency was going to be key for him moving forward.

And it goes hand-and-hand with what the Isles are trying to accomplish: Winning a Stanley Cup.

The Isles’ bread-and-butter under Lamoriello since he arrived in 2018, and furthermore Barry Trotz, has been a defense-first mentality. Barzal plays a key part in that. It’s easy to see why Lamoriello is so keen on him being laser-focused at improving with and without the puck  as opposed to him just leaning more towards offense, which most fans have been clamoring to see for a while now.

Expectations coming into this season were already sky high for Barzal. The fact that Lamoriello came out and said what he likes to see from him was different and enlightening.

You usually don’t hear the general manager talk expectations about their star players, let alone Lou Lamoriello. Obviously though he sees the untapped potential Barzal has.

And he hopes that potential comes out in droves this year not only offensively but defensively.

—

Lamoriello also had some high praise for the defensive corps he and the coaching staff assembled this year. What he said about the duo of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech really drove home how great they’ve become.

“I never realized what their abilities were. Great human beings, great teammates, he said. “They stay within their limits and playing together they’ve make each other better. They’ve done a great job.”

Lamoriello also was emphatic about Nick Leddy and how he feels he’s playing his best hockey since he took over the organization. He also was quick to point out Noah Dobson and how he thinks he will progress.

“Noah Dobson has outstanding potential. We feel he’s going to get better and better.”

—

Speaking of Pulock, it seems he and the rest of the guys in the room are more than comfortable continuing to play the underdog role despite two straight postseason appearances and making the Eastern Conference finals this past summer.

“I think we as a group are kind of fine with that underdog mentality and trying to prove people wrong,” he said chatting on NHL Network yesterday. We’ve looked at it the past couple of years and had success that way. We’re gonna keep building that way.”

Pulock also showed off his stitched ear from the shot he took up high on Saturday, all 18 of them. That’s a hockey guy.

 

The Islanders have two Top 100 players, but should there be more?

When the Islanders 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 “All-Star” umbrella while Pulock finds himself in the fourth tier for players who are at the “Top of the lineup”.

The newly extended Barzal — he and the Isles agreed to a new three-year deal over the weekend — many on the panel believe he hasn’t reached “franchise player” worthy level just yet.  “Mathew Barzal regarded as highly as he should be by the model, which doesn’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,” was how he was described at the moment.

The argument about Barzal’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  and 37 goals. Now it’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 “consistency” 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.

He’s definitely emerged as the Isles’ best and most reliable defenseman outside of his d-partner, Adam Pelech. Pulock’s numbers at both ends of the ice have continued to improve each year, but he hasn’t launched 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, he’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 isn’t on the same level of Pulock, but you’d have a hard time finding a guy whose so instrumental to their team’s success. Last season and the playoffs were perfect examples.

As for Nelson, there’s no question he is the Isles’ second-best forward behind Barzal. His level of play has reached incredible heights under Trotz — 25+ goals and 50 or more points the past two seasons — and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

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 he’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 — both recently re-signed — a combined $2.2M for this year is a nod to his genius.

Yes, Greene’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 it’s on the team whether or not they want him in Bridgeport according to the New York Post’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.

Mathew Barzal earns second ranking as a Top-50 NHL player

For the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal, his climb since his tremendous Calder Trophy-winning rookie season has been a sight to see. And now he’s earned his place among the sports top names once again.

On Sunday, the NHL Network began its list of the Top 50 players ahead of the 2020-21 season which is now confirmed to begin on January 13th. The first installment of the show ranked the 50th through 41st player.

At #42 on the list was Barzal.

This marked the second time he had been mentioned in such elite company, the first coming in 2018 when he recorded an 85-point season as a rookie.

“Mathew Barzal could potentially be a top 10 player on this list, he’s just not there for me now,” analyst Mike Rupp said.

Back then he only had one great name behind him. Behind Barzal this time around some of the names read as (Patrik) Laine, (Miro) Heiskanen, (Quinn) Hughes and (Charlie) McAvoy.

“Elite talent, elite,” Rupp added. “It’s a process. It’s coming along, he’s working at it, but we saw some things even in the postseason that he’s got to get out of his game.”

Rupp has a point.

Barzal is still just a kid; he’s only 23 years old. But his game is only continuing to evolve under the tutelage of head coach Barry Trotz. That’s clear.

Per NHL.com: Barzal has led the Islanders in scoring in each of his three full NHL seasons (he played two games in 2016-17), and has scored 207 points (59 goals, 148 assists) in 234 games. Last season he led the Islanders with 12 power-play points, was tied with Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle for first with four power-play goals and led Islanders forwards in average ice time per game (20:03). Barzal scored 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 22 playoff games to help the Islanders reach the Eastern Conference Final.

What’s also clear — Barzal is considered a top-20 centerman.

Those at NHL Network pegged him at 19th on their board a month ago. And It’s easy to see why Barzal received that nod. As he’s continued his ascension, so have the Islanders.

Barzal now finds himself in the conversation of the 50 best players. The Isles make the postseason two straight years and had their longest playoff run in 27 years all with him being the one leading the way. The two go hand-in-hand with each other.

“When you’re a good player, what you want is the puck,” analyst Mike Johnson said while praising Barzal a month ago. “He provides such a unique element to his game that the Islanders need, they don’t really have … the ability to transport the puck up the ice, out of his own end into the offensive zone.”

This season is going to be a crucial one for Barzal. It will be his fourth as a pro and he’s expected to take another step forward and help get the Isles over the hump after they came within just two games of the Stanley Cup Final. Not to mention, he will have a new contract under his belt.

If Barzal takes it to another level defensively, and puts a few more pucks in the back of the net — his water high mark was 22 during his freshman campaign — he could make a huge leap up for when the Top-50 list is revealed for next season.

“Just like it does for any other team that has a dynamic young man upfront, [Barzal’s offense] gives you more balance. It makes you more dangerous. It makes you a deeper hockey club,” Barry Trotz said back in August. “If he’s having success or if he’s not having success, that dictates your level of anxiety on the bench for your team.”

Could Barzal have been higher on the list? Some will say yes. Maybe this year provides that argument.

But to be considered one of the top 50 players in the National Hockey League, you have to be one of the best the game has to offer.

Bazal can now stake that claim.

 

Islanders’ Mathew Barzal a model for one future NHLer

Mathew Barzal has taken huge steps in his career to become one of prominent players, not just for the Islanders but in the entire NHL.

From his Calder Trophy winning rookie campaign to his wonderful performance in the bubble postseason this past summer, Barzal’s game and reputation has continued to grow.

For one future NHLer, Phil Tomasino, he sees the 23-year old Barzal as the model for the kind of player he wants to be.

He’s so smooth with the puck and makes plays,” the Nashville Predators 24th overall pick from 2019 told TSN.ca. “He’s great defensively and an all-around player as well so he’s kind of the guy I try to be like.”

 

Barzal has made tremendous strides defensively as Tomasino referred to, thanks in large part to head coach Barry Trotz. Trotz’s defensive system he’s implemented since taking over behind the Islanders’ bench two years ago has helped turned the team into one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league. That dynamic is akin to the one of when Trotz was at his prior coaching gig when he was with the Washington Capitals and dealing with another superstar, Alex Ovechkin.

”I watched almost every Islanders game this year and seeing the way he skates, the way he moves the puck, I see a little bit of myself in him. Hopefully, I get the chance to be as good as him one day,” Tomasino added.

Barzal is still young enough to where he hasn’t even reached his peak from a defensive standpoint. Skating, his most lethal weapon, has drawn comparisons to some of the best in the league, which Tomasino would like to also emulate.

Said Tomasino: “The way he’s able to skate by guys up the ice, he’s probably the best in the League at it other than probably [Connor] McDavid.”

That’s some pretty elite company to be put in. But it shouldn’t come as a shock. Barzal is a superstar in the making.

“He’s incredible and such a smooth skater … He’s an incredible all-around player. You watch him on the back check and he’s always stripping guys and stuff like that so just a great player and I love watching him,” Tomasino concluded.

Tomasino will hopefully be in the NHL soon enough. The Predators have high hopes for him after watching his dominance in juniors which included a 100-point season in 62 games this past year for the Oshawa Generals.

When he does finally get the call, it will be fun to see Tomasino try and mirror Barzal.

He won’t be the first, and certainly won’t be the last.

Who will be the next king of hockey in New York?

Yesterday marked the end of an era.

Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie for the New York Rangers for the last 15 years and a surefire Hall of Famer, was bought out by the organization with one year left on his seven-year, $59-million contract he signed in 2014.

The decision to buyout the 38-year-old was almost written on the wall ever since the arrival of Igor Shesterkin — the organization’s highly-touted Russian goalie — towards the middle of the season, and the rise of 24-year-old Alexander Georgiev the past two seasons. Still, it was a painful day not just for Rangers fans, but for all hockey fans in the metropolitan area who watched Lundqvist’s reign to becoming one of the greatest goalies ever.

Lundqvist truly was a King. And New York was his kingdom, especially from the hockey portion of the sports landscape in the area. He was the best player — other than the short stint of Jaromir Jagr — at his position of any of the three Metro teams from the moment he made his debut.

But that time has come to an end. A new king shall arise.

The question now is, who will be the next to take the throne? There’s plenty of worthy candidates who all have a case.

Igor Shesterkin

The youngster who was being groomed to be the heir-apparent to Lundqvist. He’s now the Blueshirts’ starting goaltender and will be for the foreseeable future. Shesterkin showed the fans and his teammates all the hype was real about him — and that he could very well be a dominant force moving forward — when he went 10–2-0 in his 12 starts before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the hockey season.

The future looks bright for Shesterkin and the Rangers. And he has all the capabilities of being the ruler of the sport in this town if all things play out.

Ilya Sorokin

Shesterkin isn’t the only new name on the scene that might help lead to New York’s next great era of hockey. His Russian counterpart, Ilya Sorokin, is now officially with the Islanders, and he is positioned to be the franchise goaltender on Long Island for hopefully the next decade.

The 25-year-old Sorokin was a king in his own right back in his native homeland and oozes winning and star power. He could very much take this market by storm with those traits and if he’s backstopping the Isles back to the glory days they once had back in the early 80s.

Artemi Panarin

Panarin has only called New York home for one year, but it’s already proven that he’s become one of the best athletes in any of the four major sports. We know he was already a household name before he arrived last summer, now though, the 28-year-old has a strong chance of being the next one to take the thrown around here. The guy is a superstar — he was a Hart Trophy candidate this past season — and he’s got that infectious personality which makes him a joy to watch play (the Rockette goal celebration is also very Broadway).

Panarin is going to be here for a while, another six years to be exact. In that time, the Rangers have the makings of being a powerhouse and he as the face of it all.

Mathew Barzal

As the Islanders continue to build toward a perennial winner, it’s Barzal who has become the face of the franchise and who the entire league recognizes when the franchise is mentioned.

Only 23, Barzal has already accomplished some great things in his career, including a Calder Trophy back in 2017-18. And he’s not even close to being the star everyone knows he’s capable of being. Beyond that, Barzal — most likely being an Islander for the next decade and more — has the off the ice qualifications too.

He’s got his own style. His flow has made him an internet sensation. And he’s got the look of someone who you’d put on a billboard.

All of that resonates around these parts.

Jack Hughes

Look everyone can discredit New Jersey as not being a part of the NY hockey landscape, but they still are very much a part of the fabric and its history. That’s why Jack Hughes gets a nod on this list.

The number one pick overall in 2019, Hughes is just at the beginning of his career. He was a superstar during his time at the U.S. National Development Program, and the hope is it will be the same for his time over the next number of years with the Devils. The franchise is leaning on him to bring back those years of consistent winning and championships.

Hughes is just 19, so he’s still raw. But he could very much own this town if he can help turn the Devs around and live up to his top pick status.

Kaapo Kakko

The kid picked right after Hughes at last summer’s draft, Kaapo Kakko is also just starting what hopes to be an excellent career on Broadway. Kakko definitely showed his warts as a freshman this past year, but the greatness which made him a top-2 pick flashed on a number of occasions. Being from Finland, he’s another European export who is expected to be one of the major pieces to the puzzle for the Rangers.

Kakko said when he first landed in New York, “it’s a nice city”. Well, the city has the chance to be his very much down the road.

Nico Hischier

Hischier, who also plays on the Jersey side of the Hudson, has quietly become one of the best players in the area. Another former top overall pick, he’s trying to bring the Devils back to respectability; and he has in some ways. He also is only getting better.

Just 21, he might be the best player in the area down the line.

Mika Zibanejad

The Blueshirts are loaded for the future as said above. Zibanejad is on that list. He’s become one of the synonymous names on Broadway and had the best season of his career in 2019-20.

Zibanejad is also the kind of star who can shine big in the city.

The guy is a DJ in his own right and has released his own music. That’s a total win-win if you’re looking for the next guy to be the face of the sport in the city. Add in winning, and Zibanejad is a sneaky contender for the crown.

Alexis LaFreniere

The soon-to-be number one pick, next Tuesday to be exact. LaFreniere has been compared to some of the greats playing in the game right now, and he will have the Worlds Most Famous Arena — Madison Square Garden — as his playground. The 18-year-old phenom has already expressed his love for the city and the chance to play with another star at the top of this list, Panarin.

He’s going to get his chance. Aside from that, he’s got all the hype of being Broadway’s next big hit, pardon the pun.

That itself could make him the next in line to wear the crown.

Who do you think will be the next king of hockey in New York?