Rookie year is in the books for Islanders C Mathew Barzal, and it was certainly a success. Barzal led all rookies in points (85) last season, making him the frontrunner for the Calder Trophy.
Unfortunately, though, the Islanders didn't make the playoffs, which means Barzal shipped back to his home of Coquitlam, British Columbia to get his offseason training regimen under way. HIs training, at first, is more of a recovery as he and Sportcore Performance owner Rob Williams focus on making sure every little muscle is in tact before starting the real workouts.
"Nothing too heavy, a lot of core work," Barzal told New York Hockey Journal's Leo Scaglione Jr. "I'm making sure everything is moving right and working well. Your groins and little muscles take a beating all year, so I strengthen my legs again and get them back to feeling good and strong."
Williams has his own style of getting his athletes to optimal performance, and for Barzal, that doesn't mean long cardio sessions to increase stamina or heavy weights to bulk him up. Instead, it's workouts in bursts that require athletes to give their all.
"I'm not going for 30-minute runs or any of that kind of stuff," Barzal said. "But at the end of the workout, I'm still sweating and drenched."
Williams like to have Barzal use an invention of his called "Corestars," which is more or less four square platforms with wheels underneath. Barzal says "the wheels move a hundred times faster than shopping-cart ones." Corestars has multiple different uses, but the main object is core stability.
"I do push-ups with them, move them up and bring them down," Barzal said. "We do a lot of core stuff, pushing them in and out. I stand up and do squats on them because they want to drift out and I have to stabilize everything."
Williams added: "They're a bit of a 'secret weapon' for athlete training, core function, rehabilitation, et cetera. "Because of the versatility built into the design, they can be used in a wide variety of body positions."
These workouts will continue all offseason, and Barzal won't start skating at his top speed until July. He sees the rink about three or four times a week, but each time is a specific training session instead of an all-out workout.
"One session we do a lot of stickhandling. We work on skating and edges another session or two. Then the last one we play a four-on-four game with several NHLers and pro guys from back home," Barzal explained. "It's a big game for us, always competitive, so it's fun."
Keeping a healthy diet that includes "good fats, protein and vegetables" is something the 21-year-old focuses on as well. He stays clear of sugars and other junk that wouldn't make him feel good the next day.
Prepping for the season isn't just a necessity for Barzal, but it has become an obsession.
"I'm drive, maybe even obsessed, with my body and making sure it's as pain free and loose as possible," he said "It's probably the easiest part of my day."