At the beginning of the 2017-18 NHL season, there was talk about who would win the Calder trophy. Now, there isn\’t any conversation. New York Islanders center Mat Barzal has absolutely run away with the trophy, awarded to the best rookie of the season. The 20 year old Coquitlam, British Columbia native was drafted 16th overall by the Isles in the 2015 NHL draft. The pick was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers along with the pick the Isles traded up for Barzal\’s best friend, Anthony Beauvillier for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. In his rookie season, Barzal has scored 18 goals and 49 assists for 67 points in 66 games, first among rookies by far. He played in two games in 2016-17, so his career totals are 67 points in 68 games. Also, he became the first rookie to score five assists in a single game twice. He\’s also the first rookie with three five point games since Joe Malone in the NHL\’s inaugural season, 100 years ago. Many players, like Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, have commented on Barzal\’s play. At teammate Anders Lee\’s kancer jam, I asked Barzal about those comments, Beauvillier and more.
Carter LaCorte (me): Many players around the league have commented on your play. How did you react to that?
Mat Barzal: It\’s so cool hearing it from other guys around the league. Knowing that they have seen my game and that kind of stuff. It\’s really flattering.
CL: Many teams passed on you in the draft, including the Boston Bruins three times. Did that motivate you to work harder to get where you are now?
MB: It did at the time. You just have to be self-motivated. At the time I wanted to prove everybody wrong.
CL: Do you think you could beat Connor McDavid in a race?
MB: No, I\’m not sure of that.
CL: Can you tell us more about your \”bromance\” with teammate Anthony Beauvillier?
MB: He\’s my best friend on the team. We\’ve had a lot of fun together. We\’re kind of crazy too. We have a lot of fun.
CL: Would you rather get an assist or a goal?
MB: I love scoring but I love getting assists too. I like both. Either one is good for me.
CL: Do you consider yourself a playmaker or a goal scorer?
MB: I\’m more of a playmaker.
CL: The team has been very good on offense this season, but has struggled on defense. How can the forwards help prevent more goals from scoring?
MB: We have to work harder and block more shots.
CL: What\’s it like being here at Anders\’ kan jam event?
MB: It\’s the best. Anders is an amazing guy. This is so great, and being his teammate I want to show him as much support as I can.
CL: You played in Seattle in the WHL. Do you think it\’s a good NHL venue?
MB: It\’s great, definitely.
CL: What would you name an NHL team there?
MB: I would have it… maybe the Metropolitans.
CL: Who has the biggest personality on the team?
MB: Jason Chimera (he hadn\’t been traded to the Ducks yet at the time of this recording). He\’s so funny.