NEW YORK — Mathew Barzal hasn’t shown any signs of cooling off anytime soon, with his latest feat becoming an Islanders’ franchise-rookie record five assists in the team’s 6-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche Sunday night.
The rookie forward became just the sixth player in franchise history to record five assists in a single game and joined the ranks of some legendary names. Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Stefan Persson, Brent Sutter and Pat LaFontaine all had five assists.
Now Barzal joins that list.
“He skates really well, he sees the ice really well,” Jordan Eberle said about his Barzal. “Him and I took very similar roots coming into the NHL… The biggest thing that I remembered happened is you got to get confidence. That comes with the more you play and the more success you have. He’s feeling it right now which is great. It’s fun to play with him.”
For Eberle, who scored two goals on Sunday, the decision to Barzal onto his line has paid off quite well for the newest member of the organization. Barzal has had the primary assists on all but one of Eberle’s first four goals of the season.
“You just want to continue to play with a guy and learn what his tendencies are going to be,” Eberle said. “His speed is his number one attribute. For me I want to just try to create space for him and get open when I can.”
Barzal’s assists on Eberle’s goals on Sunday, as well as both of Nick Leddy’s goals and Johnny Boychuk’s goal, helped extend the rookie’s point streak to six games. He also has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) over his last nine games with the Islanders.
Still as the points have racked up and the spotlight has shifted towards the young forward, Barzal has remained humble through it all. Quickly gaining confidence on the ice, while crediting the players around him for helping him to navigate his way through his first NHL season.
“I think just finding chemistry with everybody,” Barzal said when asked about what has been clicking for him. “Everybody is doing a heck of a job just making me comfortable. Same with all the coaching staff. It’s been a bunch of things.”
The Islanders were expecting Barzal to be an impact player when they drafted 16th overall in the 2015 NHL draft, and they were expecting him to make an impact heading into this season. But Barzal being this good this quickly has been a surprise, even to management.
Earlier in the week, Garth Snow was asked about the development of Barzal and the Islanders general manger mentioned a conversation he had with director of amateur scouting, Trent Klatt.
“He said, ‘we knew as a scouting staff that Mathew would be this good we just didn’t think it would be this soon,'” Snow recalled. “The challenge for (Barzal) is to maintain where he’s at and continue to get better. As a 20-year-old he will get better and he’s going to get stronger, but it’s been fun to see.”
There was a sense of ironic timing to Barzal’s milestone night on Sunday against the Avalanche. In the midst of everything going on in the game, Matt Duchene was traded to the Ottawa Senators.
Duchene had been a player the Islanders had been looking to acquire via trade, but Snow halted any talks after Avs general manager Joe Sakic reportedly requested Barzal as part of a potential deal with the Islanders. The decision has seemingly paid off for New York, which has watched Barzal quickly make a mark with the team.