Mathew Barzal has spent the past two years with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds and is now looking ahead to being picked in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Here’s everything you need to know about Barzal:
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Coquitlam, B.C.
Current team: Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL
Weight: 175 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (North American): 11th
Marek’s Take: Great hands and can make plays at top speed. Was outstanding after coming back from a knee injury and at the U18s. Elite offensive player. Great skill and creativity.
Comparable: Kyle Turris
He’s been a No. 1 overall pick before…
Barzal is expected to go early in the first round of June’s draft, but his stock isn’t quite as high as it once was. In the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, Barzal was the top pick, ahead of other 2015 NHL draft eligibles such as Jansen Harkins and Nick Merkley.
Back in 2012, Barzal was so hyped that he was being mentioned in the same breath as Connor McDavid when talking about the top of the 2015 draft. Before American Jack Eichel entered the picture it was the OHL’s top prospect (McDavid) versus the WHL’s top prospect (Barzal).
He loves watching video
Barzal is a student of the game and as Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce explored earlier this season, he watches himself and other players a lot on video to see where he can improve.
Barzal especially keeps tabs on the NHL players he models his game after: Claude Giroux, Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane. He’ll even watch former teammates from international events he participated in to keep tabs on how they’re doing. And, of course, he’ll watch a lot of tape from his own games because, as he told Joyce, “You see things on video that you don’t pick up on the ice.”
Here’s a little more on his viewing habits from that article:
Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk likes to sit his players down to show them video as a teaching tool to complement work in practice. With Barzal it’s all reruns. “He’ll say, ‘Yeah coach, I looked at that last night after the game before I went to bed,’” Konowalchuk says. “That’s this generation of players—different than when I played. A lot of kids will go to school on it, Matt more than most.”
So with that in mind, let’s check out some video of Barzal, shall we?
He suffered a significant knee injury this season
Barzal was second in Thunderbirds scoring in November when he was forced to have knee surgery that sidelined him for nearly three months. Because of the injury he wasn’t available for the World Junior Championship and was limited to just 44 games this season.
At the time, Seattle general manager Russ Farwell told Theprovince.com of Barzal’s cracked kneecap: “Prior to a practice in Saskatoon on our East Division road trip, Matt was roughhousing with some of his teammates in the locker room and tripped over a stick.”
Barzal played 27 regular season games after returning to the lineup in January and scored 39 points. He didn’t score any goals in March, but did accumulate four goals and eight points in six playoff games.
He holds a B.C. hockey record
Barzal grew up in the Burnaby Winter Club, which has produced NHL talent such as Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, Cliff Ronning and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But in 2012-13, Barzal accomplished something none of those three did.
In 34 games with the Vancouver NE Chiefs minor midget team, Barzal recorded 29 goals and 103 points, which are impressive totals on their own. But when you consider that his 74 assists set a new all-time record in British Columbia Minor Midget hockey, his season is all the more special. He was named BC Hockey Player of the Year for his accomplishment.
He’s led Team Canada in scoring…twice
Despite missing out on the WJC, Barzal represented his country twice this season.
First was the Ivan Hlinka tournament, an August event in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in which Canada won gold. In five games Barzal got seven points, which tied him with Mitch Marner atop Canada’s roster and ahead of draft eligible players such as Lawson Crouse and Dylan Strome.
In April, Team Canada captured bronze at the Under-18 World Championship and Barzal played a leading role. He starred at the U18 event, scoring three goals and 12 points in seven games to again lead the way for his country. This roster didn’t have the high-end draft talent the one in August did, but Barzal made himself stand out.