Like a lot of us lately, New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal is forced to celebrate his 23rd birthday on Tuesday in quarantine as the NHL inches closer to a return from the coronavirus freeze.
His third full NHL season was suspended indefinitely on March 12 due to the pandemic’s outbreak, halting another productive season with 14 games remaining.
Through 68 games, the British Columbia native was on pace to set a new career-high in goals with 19 (his best is 22) with 41 assists as he and the Islanders were in the midst of an uncomfortable playoff race that featured an elongated slump that lasted over two months.
Postseason races and potential return scenarios aside, looking at Barzal’s production before his 23rd for the Islanders further confirms that he is well on pace to become the franchise’s next great.
In fact, only six Islanders have produced more than Barzal at the time of their 23rd birthday while just five of them have averaged a higher points-per-game output:
Bryan Trottier (1975-1979): 424 points in 309 games (1.37 points per game)
Pat LaFontaine (1983-1988): 273 points in 287 games (0.95 points per game)
Mike Bossy (1977-1980): 265 points in 194 games (1.36 points per game)
John Tavares (2009-2013): 249 points in 291 games (0.85 points per game)
Brent Sutter (1980-1985): 238 in 267 games (0.89 points per game)
Denis Potvin (1973-1976): 228 in 234 games (0.97 points per game)
MATHEW BARZAL (2017-2020): 207 points in 234 games (0.88 points per game)
Clark Gillies (1974-1977): 163 points in 230 games (0.71 points per game)
All signs are pointing to Barzal and the Islanders getting back on the ice within the next few weeks. On Monday, the NHL sent out a 22-page memorandum outlining Phase 2 of the league’s return, which features teams returning to facilities for workouts sometime in June.