Mathew Barzal continues to make a bigger and bigger impact as well as earn more and more respect in the NHL.
Barzal, the second-year center for the New York Islanders and former star of the Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team, had two goals and four assists to help the Metropolitan Division win the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Saturday in San Jose.
The 21-year-old from British Columbia played with Pittsburgh Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in the two 20-minute games and three-on-three format.
“I was literally laughing on the ice because it was almost too easy,” said Barzal, according to NHL.com, about playing with Crosby. “He was just always open, and you just hand it off to him when you’re in trouble.”
Crosby was named the game’s most valuable player. He had four goals and four assists in the victories over the Atlantic Division (7-4) in the opening game and Central Division (10-5) in the title game.
Barzal was one of four finalists for the MVP award. Barzal also had the adjacent stall to Crosby in the dressing room.
“Got a chance to skate with him a little bit this summer, so that was just surreal,” said Barzal, according to the New York Post. “Come in here, he’s such a nice guy and such a good guy for me to learn from. So it’s really cool for me.”
Crosby and Letang are impressed with Barzal’s play.
“Three-on-three, I mean, I don’t know if there’s anyone better at holding on to the puck,” said Crosby, according to NHL.com. “I think watching him out there with the best, I don’t see anyone that beats him in that category.”
Letang also praised Barzal, who won the Calder Memorial Trophy last season as the top rookie in the league.
“The game plan is to give it to Mathew, obviously,” Letang said via an interview on NBC. “We played against him in the season and he just controls the whole game on his skating ability and his skills.”
The Islanders selected Barzal in the first round, 16th overall, in the 2015 draft.
Barzal played four seasons with the Kent-based T-Birds at the accesso ShoWare Center from 2013 to 2017. He was the Western Hockey League Playoff MVP as Seattle won the 2017 WHL championship. Barzal was a two-time WHL Western Conference All-Star and was the 2016-17 WHL Western Conference Player of the Year.