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The first overall pick in the 2012 WHL Draft, the Seattle Thunderbirds have made the commitment to build around Mathew Barzal. With 7 goals and 23 points in his first 22 games this season, Barzal was following up on a nice performance in the Ivan Hlinka tournament (7 points in 5 games, gold medal), and rewarding the Thunderbirds for the decision. However a knee injury would take him out for a good portion of the season. When Barzal finally returned to the line, he really took off with 34 points in his final 22 games of the season. Overall he would finish with 12 goals and 57 points in 44 regular season games. Barzal would also add four goals and four assists in six games during the Seattle Thunderbirds first round loss in the WHL playoffs. Overall, it was a no brainer for Hockey Canada to name him to the club for the 2015 IIHF Under 18 World Championships where he looks to add to his international resume, and improve on the Bronze Medal he took home as an underager last season.
Center — shoots Right
Born May 26 1997 — Coquitlam, BC
Height 6.0 — Weight 181 [183 cm/82 kg]
Mathew Barzal is an outstanding skater, with top notch speed and great acceleration. His stride is smooth and extremely effective. He also has great agility, outstanding pivots and strong edge work which he uses to be incredibly elusive off the rush, or in the offensive zone. Barzal shows good lower-body strength for his age, giving him the good balance and powerful stride to fight through checks and win board battles. Like most 17-year-olds, he will still need to add a little more strength going forward though.
Mathew Barzal also has incredibly soft hands and great stick handling. He protects the puck extremely well, and works well in the cycle game. He has very good hockey sense, and almost always makes the smart play. These skills alone would make him a dynamic offensive threat, but when you add in his great shot, quick release and excellent vision and play-making ability he is the total package as an offensive player. He does need to use that shot more, and would score more goals if he was a little more selfish. He has shown the willingness to play in the dirty areas of the ice, and shows flashes of adding a power game to his offensive finesse and skill after adding some weight this off-season.If he continues to grow and add that game, the sky is the limit for him both in the WHL and eventually the NHL.
Barzal can be a good two way player. He shows the hockey sense and anticipation to break up plays, create turnovers, and start the transition game. He also knows how to work down low to support his defence, and has shown a willingness to block shots. The issue here is that his effort level in his own zone is not always consistent. He has the skills to be good defensively, but must work to do so night in and night out going forward.
Barzal has the ability to develop into a top line NHL centre if he reaches his ceiling, but will need some time to do so. With the fact he missed a good portion of the season this year due to the knee injury, he needs some time before he will be NHL ready. In terms of style, his game is similar to Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, however this is a style comparison and not a talent one.
Below are some videos of Barzal in action
Check back tomorrow for the Number 11 Prospect on our draft board.