The 2015 NHL Draft is more than just Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
It seems like an obvious statement to make. The talent that these two prospects possess justify the attention they get on a daily basis. Even top prospects such as Dylan Strome, Noah Hanifin, and Mitch Marner get a little lost in the shuffle.
This season’s draft is deep. Several prospects that are potential 1st round picks will end up going in the 2nd round or later. With so many good prospects, someone is bound to slip in the draft.
There is one prospect that is not getting nearly enough attention. He is almost as talented as McDavid and Eichel. However, his injury history is a major concern. As a result, he has slipped down the rankings. If he is able to prove he is not injury prone, he could turn out to become a Jonathan Toews like talent. His name? Mathew Barzal.
Why Barzel Is Best
Dominant playmakers are hard to find. This is what you get in Barzal. Known as more of a passer than a goal scorer, Barzal averaged over an assist per game this past season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Of his 45 assists, 26 of them were primary assists. This is a key indicator of a player who directly generates offense.
What sets Barzal apart is his ability to play a solid two-way game. He is not afraid to block shots or do the dirty things to help prevent goals. With his high hockey IQ, Barzal is excellent at reading plays and intercepting passes. He uses his excellent skating to make all of this happen. You can see why Barzal is thought of as a top prospect.
As mentioned earlier, his injury history is concerning. Barzal has missed a total of 41 games the last two seasons, thanks in large part to a broken kneecap. This concern will get the attention of teams. This will most likely cause Barzal to slip in the draft. When he has been in the lineup, he’s been the best player on the ice. It would have been fascinating to see what he could have done had he stayed healthy.
Barzal had terrific U-18. I see his stock only rising. Some scouts I talked to wonder if healthy all year, would he challenge Marner/Strome?
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 5, 2015
Some have even said Barzal has flashes of dominance in his game. Check out what Future Considerations had to say about him:
“A smart, creative player with a wide, strong, fluid stride…plays a 200-foot game…makes good decisions with the puck…has decent strength, and looks bigger than listed…shows flashes of dominating offensive skills, but need to do so with more consistency…not overly physical, but will engage in contact for the puck.”
“While many see Barzal as having a lot of offensive upside, I see him as a premier two-way center who can be used at equally on the powerplay, as well as the penalty kill. It’s quite difficult to find players who are as gifted defensively as they are on the scoresheet.”
Finally, Elite Prospects had excellent things to say about Barzal:
“Barzal is an offensive forward with very good skating abilities. Has tremendous puck-handling and is poised with the puck, while looking for the perfect pass-option using his strong vision. Owns an excellent wrist shot with a remarkable release. Barzal reads the plays well, looking for interceptions and is not afraid to block shots, playing a reliable two-way game.”
Barzal has the skill set to become one of the elite centers in the game. Because McDavid and Eichel are getting all of the attention, not many are talking about Barzal. Whoever drafts him is going to get a player who could be better than Strome and Marner. He has the tools. Now can he stay healthy? If he does, you could be looking at the next Jonathan Toews.