If training camp ended right now, Mat Barzal would break the team with the big club.
After the Islanders' 3-0 preseason victory over the Devils on Monday night, head coach Doug Weight was asked, based on what he's seen so far, if Barzal would make the team.
"Yes," Weight responded.
Barzal scored his third goal of the preseason when he skated through the neutral zone and directly past three Devils players before roofing the puck over G Keith Kincaid.
The 20-year-old center was drafted 16th overall in the 2015 NHL draft, and tallied 79 points (10 goals, 69 assists) last season in Juniors.
I think we all wanted to see more of what Barzal could do when he got his look with the Isles early last year. But he seemed tentative in the mere two games he cracked the lineup, and with the team struggling, Jack Capuano didn't exhibit much patience before Barzal was ultimately sent back to Juniors.
But during this camp, this has been a completely different guy. He's skating circles around everyone, making strong moves to the net, and finishing on some terrific goals in the process. This weekend, Barzal centered the second line between Andrew Ladd and Josh Bailey, and the lineup sure looked at lot like an Opening Night configuration.
Maybe Barzal doesn't get the second line, maybe he's down on the third with Brock Nelson on the second. But really, that's just semantics. The Mat Barzal we've all been hearing about has arrived, and he looks like he's here to stay.