The message from New York Islanders management to Mathew Barzal was simple. Recalled the 20-year-old center: "Dominate. Put up good numbers. Work on your game. Do not take any games lightly. Be a good defensive player; try not to get scored on, ever. Go lead your team. Go be a winner." So, he did.
After surviving training camp cuts and skating in his first two National Hockey League games with the Islanders last October, Barzal was returned to his junior club, the Seattle Thunderbirds, and as co-captain led them to their first Western Hockey League championship.
There were many reasons to celebrate over the season, of course. But there also were several obstacles and challenges that he was forced to overcome. Combined, the highs and lows provided Barzal with a crash course in hockey development that will benefit him this fall when he seeks to claim a spot on this year’s Islanders’ squad.
"Dominate. Put up good numbers."