Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello mum on Mathew Barzal moving to wing full-time in 2023-24

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Mathew Barzal Islanders
Mathew Barzal (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

EAST MEADOW — Mathew Barzal will be entering training camp next week facing the very real possibility of shifting from his natural position at center to right wing where he’ll likely flank Bo Horvat — the All-Star center brought in by the Islanders at the trade deadline last season and subsequently signed to an eight-year contract. 

It’s a move the 26-year-old got a limited taste of last season, playing just seven games on Horvat’s right wing before an injury sidelined him for the final seven weeks of the regular season. He returned for the Islanders’ six-game first-round playoff series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but the time missed paired with not being at 100% limited the effectiveness of the partnership. 

During his exit interview in May, Barzal admitted that there would likely be an acclimation period should he be moved full-time to the wing.

“That’s ultimately not my decision,” Barzal said at the time. “Whether I’m wing or center, if Bo and I are on the ice together, we’ll be able to create… I’ve been a center for 15 years so I wouldn’t say I was extremely natural right away but playing with Bo… [he] makes it easy because he’s in the right positions.”

Islanders Kraken Bo Horvat
New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates with teammates Sebastian Aho (25) and Mathew Barzal (13) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Now on the precipice of training camp, Islanders president Lou Lamoriello was non-committal on Monday about the playmaker’s position.

“I don’t think that’s something I would answer, but I don’t think there’s any question as far as the commitment that is there for Mat playing any position that we asked him,” Lamoriello said. “Like any player, you’ll see the lines on the first day of the regular season.”

Taking the Islanders’ current roster into consideration, Barzal’s shift to the right wing is the most logical move heading into the 2023-24 season and certainly feels like a given. New York is set down the middle with Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Casey Cizikas sitting beneath Horvat on the center depth chart.

While Nelson appears to have found a legitimate second line alongside Pierre Engvall and Kyle Palmieri — the trio was the Islanders’ most effective unit down the stretch last season — Barzal and Horvat provide the Islanders with the potential of an All-Star-caliber duo on the first line, which is something that has eluded the organization for years. 

Mathew Barzal injury Islanders
Mathew Barzal (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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