Picking 3rd in 2015: No McDavid, No Eichel, No Problem? Enter Mathew Barzal

It's 2015, and the NHL recently changed the NHL draft lottery odds, giving away the top 2 picks to the lottery winner. The Sabres finish again as the worst team in the NHL and lose the NHL draft lottery. Sabre fans are convinced the NHL draft is rigged and that they are cursed. The Florida Panthers won the NHL draft lottery picking first while the Edmonton Oilers won the 2nd pick.

Feeling the heat from fans, the Islanders improved in the offseason by stabilizing their Defense and making a key trade for a Goaltender. They narrowly missed the playoffs, but are still picking 14th. The St.Louis Blues also made a deep playoff run, and are picking 27th overall.

You just know this is coming. It's unlikely, but it very well could happen.

This would be a huge disappointment for Sabre fans.

But should it be?

Overall, in comparing this draft to past drafts, I think a lot of people believe that this draft is like 2003, or 2013. Those drafts were all about depth. Not only were there top end guys, but they had depth well beyond round 1 of first round caliber players. The draft in 2015, is a very top heavy draft. I think if you're poised to make the playoffs, then you wouldn't be doing much harm to trade your pick. If you're in the lottery though, you will get a phenominal talent. Outside of picking top 2, there's Mathew Barzal, Noah Hanafin, Dylan Strome, Pavel Zacha, Travis Konecny, and Oliver Kylington are all high end talents.

It's easy to get caught up in the hype for Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the projected #1, and #2 overall picks. McDavid projects as the future Sidney Crosby, and Jack Eichel projects as a Ryan Getzlaf type of guy.

I've been doing a ton of research on what's behind "McCrosby" and It seems like the consensus #3 Centerman to most people is Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Mathew Barzal is easily the next best forward in the 2015 NHL entry draft, and I think I would go as far to say he'd be the #1 pick in this draft. He is the former #1 overall pick of the WHL Bantum Draft in 2012, an honor shared by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnathan Toews.

ISS rated Barzal as the #2 rated skater of the 2015 draft behind McDavid in October, but I believe Eichel is now considered #2. Thats not a knock on Barzal, but it's a testament to how good Eichel is. Eichel and Barzal will be battling for that #2 spot in 2015.

Barzal however, still has the elite potential that most #1 draft picks have. If the WHL ever granted exceptional status like the OHL does (they don't), Mathew Barzal would have been playing in the WHL last season, at the same time while Connor McDavid played in the OHL last year. His coach in Seattle is Steve Konowalchuk. Coach Konowalchuk said he is better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was at the same age.

Steve Konawalchuk also said on Barzal before the season started:

""He’s an elite talent and people are going to love to watch him play. It’s really impressive the way he sees the ice and understands the game. He’s a kid who has been driven from a young age to be the best.""

-Article by Jim Rielly, Seattle Times

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ESPN Seattle Writer Tim Pigulski had this to say about Mathew Barzal before the season started:

"The 6-foot, 170-pound Barzal attended the Thunderbirds' training camp prior to the 2012-13 season, where some scouts considered him the best player in attendance despite facing competition five years older. One agent in attendance, Carlos Sosa of Turning Point Sports Management, said Barzal is the most talented player to come through Seattle since Patrick Marleau in the mid-1990s. Marleau, of course, is now playing for the NHL's San Jose Sharks and is the team's career leader in points, goals, power-play goals, and an impressive number of other offensive categories."

And this quote is my personal favorite, also from Pigulski:

"McDavid's drawn comparisons to and praises from Sidney Crosby. Reebok signed him to an endorsement contract when he was still just 15 years old.

And last year, Barzal outplayed him in the All-Canadian Mentorship Cup. At least, according to Yahoo! Sports Canada's Cam Charron, who said that both players were quite impressive."

-Tim Pigulski, ESPN Seattle

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I'm not trying to take anything away from Connor McDavid. McDavid is in a class of his own and is truly elite, and absolutely sick. Some think McDavid might be even better than Crosby. I dont think Barzal is that far behind . In any other draft class, Barzal would be the #1 pick easily. I believe this shows you just how talented Mathew Barzal really is, and overall how talented the top of the 2015 draft class is.

Prior to his arrival in Seattle, Barzal set the BCMMHL record for points by a 15 year old with 103 points, in 34 games. By comparison, Sam Reinhart who played in the same league registered 78 points, in 34 games (which is quite good by the way). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, another BCMMHL alumni, registered 86 points in 36 games as a 15 year old. Had Barzal played the extra games he missed, he would have shattered Major Midget Records for the BCMMHL which has also had alumni in: Evander Kane, Ryan Johansen, Brett Connolly, Brendan Gallagher, and 2013 draftee, Nic Petan.

This past season for the Seattle Thunderbirds as a rookie, Barzal had 14 goals, 54 points in 59 games, He had only 4 fewer points than Nick Merkley, another 2015 prospect who played in 7 more games. Conventional wisdom would make you question why Barzal, if he is so great didnt outscore Merkley even with few games played? Merkley is playing for an offensive powerhouse with the Kelowna Rockets that scored the second most goals in the WHL with 310, behind the Portland Winterhawks.

Mathew Barzal in his rookie season of WHL hockey helped the Thunderbirds reach the WHL playoffs for the first time in 4 years. The Thunderbirds were in desperate need of help across the board, offensively and defensively. He stepped up as their #1 centerman almost immediately, and made his Seattle teammates much better around him and helped them return to the WHL playoffs.

There is a lot to be said for a player who goes onto a struggling Seattle team and makes them a much improved team, and it's tough to measure that on a stat sheet because it wont show up. It will show up for his teammates.

Connor McDavid did the same with the Erie Otters in his time with them. McDavid inherited a 10 win team at 15 years old, brought them to 19 wins in 2012-13. Today, along with the experienced OHL stud, Otters leading scorer and Maple Leaf prospect, Connor Brown, along with center Dane Fox, McDavid has a 52 win powerhouse in Erie, PA under first season head coach, Kris Knoblauch.

It will be interesting to see how 2014-15 plays out for Matthew Barzal, but I believe it's safe to say he'll have Seattle at the top of the WHL next season. His arrival in Seattle has generate a lot of buzz for the Thunderbirds, and has helped turned them into a credible destination for junior players to play.

I did as much research as I could to put together my own scouting report on Mathew Barzal:

Position, Center

Age: 16

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds Number: 13

Ht: 5'11, Wt:171 lbs

Shoots: Right

Birthplace: Coquitlam, British Columbia (Just outside Vancouver)

What Barzal brings:

-He's the type of player who will always have way more assists then goals, (like Adam Oates, Joe Thornton, Henrik Sedin), but that doesn't mean he wont score his. This is where he differs from Connor McDavid. McDavid will be a better goal scorer than Barzal, but Barzal will be a slightly better passer/ playmaker than MacDavid.

He will lead the NHL in assists in his career at least a couple times, or be in the the Top 10 consistently.

-An Immensely selfless player, great attitude, fantastic character and fierce competitor

-Two way game is improving. He's learning from one of the best 2-way players of the 90's in Konowalchuk, who is preaching the importance of the all around game

-Makes his linemates and team around him better. Seattle had roughly the same team prior to his arrival and registered more wins. His linemates saw substantial increases in goal scoring from the year before.

-Has a very high hockey IQ and thinks the game very well.

-He is a truely special talent, the kind of talent that doesnt come around too often

-Would go #1 overall in 2015 if he wasn't in the same class with Connor McDavid. He's more talented than anyone the draft has produced over the past 3 years including: Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Johnathan Huberdeau.

NHL Comparison: Adam Oates/ (Ryan Nugent Hopkins on the low end)

An Adam Oates comparison is a bold comparison, but for Barzal, I think he has every bit of skill required to be that great.

Both are selfless players. Both are right handed shooting centers with high hockey IQ's who think the game well, and both are roughly around the same size physically. Both men are guys who make their linemates much better around them.

Adam Oates is one of the NHL's most prolific passers in history, and a completely selfless player. If you're a goal scorer like Thomas Vanek, you want Mathew Barzal to center your line just like you'd want Adam Oates to center your line. Oates led the league in assists 3 times, and was top 10 in assists 12 times. He maintained a 60 assists pace 9 times throughout his career.

With the 2015 draft drawing all of the hype due to Connor McDavid (and Jack Eichel), nobody has really talked about whats after the top 2. If you knew nothing about what's beyond pick #2, you would think losing the lottery and falling to pick 3 would be a disaster. Thats far from the truth.

Nobody has really done anything extensive on the #3 player in the 2015 draft Mathew Barzal.

It may seem as if I am trying to downplay McDavid, thats far from the truth. Im more trying to downplay the "doom and gloom" and "typical Buffalo" that would occur if they lost out on Connor McDavid in 2015, or even Jack Eichel. While Connor McDavid may be the ultimate prize, and truely in a class of his own, if the Sabres fall out of the top 2 to pick 3 or even pick 4 in 2015, that doesn't mean they're not getting an elite player next year through the draft.

Mathew Barzal most certainly is hyped as an elite player. If he stays the course and doesnt do a Blake Clarke type collapse in the draft, then Barzal would be an excellent choice.

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This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.

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