Seattle Thunderbirds centerman Mathew Barzal has superior playmaking skills, along with quickness, acceleration and a knack for being in the right place at the right time on the ice. His positional soundness is a result of his high hockey IQ and having tremendous vision on the ice. Generously listed at 5’ 11” and 182, Barzal is not a goal scorer, but his presence on a line will generate offense. He had 12 goals and 45 assists for 57 points in only 44 games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. His 26 primary assists ranked third in that category in the WHL. He is active in all three zones, which will make him an attractive target for the Flyers, especially in Dave Hakstol’s system.
Due to this exceptionally deep draft class, Barzal is ranked by CSS at #11. If it were any other year, Barzal would likely find himself in the top five ranked North American skaters. His numbers at the WHL level were impressive, especially given that he missed more than a third of the season due to a fairly serious knee injury (cracked kneecap).
Barzal models his game after Claude Giroux, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago’s Patrick Kane. We would say those are three pretty good role models for a center of Barzal’s skill level.
The Flyers interviewed Barzal at the NHL combine, and Flyers GM Ron Hextall likely has some inside information from a pretty good source: Seattle Thunderbirds owner, governor and general manager and former Flyers GM, Russ Farwell. (Sure, he shipped Hextall out of town in the Lindros trade, but let’s let bygones be bygones.)
SCOUTING REPORT (via Elite Prospects)
“Matthew Barzal is an offensive forward with very good skating abilities. Has tremendous puck handling and is poised with the puck, while looking for the perfect pass-option using his strong vision. Owns an excellent wrist shot with a remarkable release. Barzal reads the plays well, looking for interceptions and is not afraid to block shots, playing a reliable two-way game. A complete player with strong hockey sense.”
ACCOLADES (via NHL.com)
“Barzal was selected by Seattle first overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft and finished tied for fifth in WHL rookie scoring in 2013-14 with 14-40—54 in 59 games.
Barzal was part of Canada’s gold medal squad at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial (2-5—7 in seven games) and earned bronze at the Under-18 World Junior Championship in 2014 (3-1—4 in seven games) and 2015 (3-9—12 in seven games).
Barzal grew up winning back-to-back minor hockey championships with the Burnaby Winter Club, a program whose famous NHL alumni include Glenn Anderson, Cliff Ronning and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He was named BC Hockey Player of the Year in 2012-13 after recording 29-74—103 in 34 games for the Vancouver NE Chiefs, setting a British Columbia Minor Midget Hockey League record for assists in a season.”
DRAFT DAY DECISION
Dave Hakstol values forwards who play a two-way game, and wanting those who can control the puck at both ends. This is where Barzal’s stock may rise in the eyes of the Flyers. Hextall is all in with the culture and system that he wants Hakstol to bring with him to the Flyers organization.
The question the Flyers need to ask themselves, as is the case with some others in the team’s consideration set is this: is Barzal worth taking at the #7 pick, or will he drop to outside of the top 10? If so, does it make sense to collect another draft pick and move back a few spots in the first round? There’s no guarantee a team in the 7-10 range won’t go off the board to take him, so if the Flyers feel he is the right fit, they should take him at 7, despite the organizational need for a winger.