The Islanders Best Active Homegrown Player: Brought To You By Upper Deck

After losing in seven games to the Washington Capitals in the First Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Islanders turned their attention to the draft.

Former general manager Garth Snow wasn't slated to pick in the first two rounds, but they had their eye set on a player and made the necessary moves to make him a part of their organization.

After the Boston Bruins selected 13th, 14th, and 15th, the Islanders traded defenseman Griffin Reinhart, their fourth overall pick in 2012, to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for the 16th and 33rd overall picks.

With the 16th overall pick, the Islanders selected centerman Mathew Barzal.

The gifted Seattle Thunderbird centerman scored 12 goals and 45 assists for 57 points in 44 games before scoring eight points (four goals and four assists) in six playoff games.

After one more season in the WHL, where he dominated with 88 points (27 goals, 61 assists) in 58 games in 2015-16, Barzal made his NHL debut on Oct. 15, 2016, against the Washington Capitals.

It was an NHL debut to forget, as he took three penalties, including one for playing the puck from the penalty box in a 2-1 loss.

the islanders best active homegrown player: brought to you by upper deck

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Barzal played one more game that season, on Oct. 26, against the Montreal Canadiens, a 3-2 loss where he was a minus-2 before being returned to juniors.

He put up 79 points (10 goals, 69 assists) in 41 games in his final year with Seattle before becoming an everyday player for the Islanders in 2017-18.

It was a magical year for the 21-year-old as he took home the Calder Cup as the league's top rookie after scoring 22 goals with 63 assists for 85 points in 82 games.

His first career NHL goal came against New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist, and away he went:

Most of Barzal's minutes came alongside Jordan Eberle and a combination of Anthony Beauvillier and Andrew Ladd on his left.

Following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, the Islanders lost their captain, John Tavares, who signed a seven-year deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

At the time, this was a major loss, especially for an organization that had just hired Hockey Hall of Fame general manager Lou Lamoriello, who then hired head coach Barry Trotz a month after he won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals.

While losing the team's captain and best player wasn't ideal, it allowed for more opportunities for other players, especially Mathew Barzal, who became the team's No. 1 centerman.

the islanders best active homegrown player: brought to you by upper deck

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Going up against the league's best defensemen, Barzal's numbers dipped in his sophomore season, scoring 18 goals with 44 assists for 62 points before 19 goals and 41 assists for 60 points in the 2019-20 shortened 68-game season.

But, through that year, Barzal became the clear-cut face of the franchise.

Over the next five seasons, Barzal never reached that point of production we saw in his rookie year, with the consistent rotation of linemates not helping the cause.

Still, he was a strong player, making the All-Star team in 2019 and 2020.

the islanders best active homegrown player: brought to you by upper deck

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Then, the 2023-24 season came, and Barzal showed that he could be the point producer he showcased in 2017-18.

Alongside Bo Horvat, Barzal was back to being a point-per-game player with a team-leading 80 points in 80 games, setting a new career-high with 23 goals and 57 assists.

Barzal and the Islanders were quickly bounced out of the First Round by the Carolina Hurricanes after five games—the second-straight postseason loss to Carolina—but it was rather important to see Barzal play to the level everyone knew he was capable of.

the islanders best active homegrown player: brought to you by upper deck

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The now 26-year-old will be entering the second year of an eight-year extension worth $73.2 million ($9.15 M AAV) when the 2024-25 season begins.

Barzal isn't the only strong player in the lineup that's homegrown.

Brock Nelson, who led the team with 34 goals and their goal-scoring leader year in and year out, was taken 30th overall in 2010.

Defenseman Noah Dobson was selected 12th overall in 2018 and was part of the Norris Trophy conversation for most of this past season, finishing the year with 70 points (10 goals, 60 assists) in 79 games.

Starting netminder Ilya Sorokin, whom the Islanders drafted in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, was a Vezina finalist in 2022-23. The organization hopes he bounces back after a tough 2023-24 campaign.

Celebrate the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft with a FREE digital trading card set that features some of your favorite NHL superstars, like Connor Bedard, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and more. Make sure to add them to your collection today!

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