(1090 The Fan) — Mathew Barzal suffered what has been disclosed as an upper-body injury in his last game with Seattle, a 3-2 win over Portland on December 13th.
Though the injury caused him to sit out the final two Thunderbirds games of the first half, it wasn’t enough to temper the enthusiasm surrounding Barzal through the start of his WHL career.
Barzal, 16, has scored six goals and delivered 25 assists in 32 games Seattle (21-10-1-3), whose 46 points is good enough for fifth place in the WHL’s Western Conference. His 25 assists trail only defenseman Shea Theodore (27) for the team lead and his 31 points are fourth most amongst T-Birds skaters.
“It’s been a great time so far,” said Barzal. “I didn’t know to expect too much coming into the season. All of the guys have been really welcoming, I can’t say I have had enough fun.”
Evidenced by his high assist total, Barzal has displayed a proficient ability to get the puck to his teammates in good scoring position. His smooth skating, deft puck-handling and ice awareness seem to be his best assets thus far in his young career.
“If I had to pick my best attribute, it would probably be my ice vision,” explained Barzal. “I have two really good shooters on my line with (Justin) Hickman and (Roberts) Lipsbergs so I’m confident passing it to them and when I do I expect it to be in the back of the net and it usually is.
“My coach was (aware) of me coming in on (defensive) zone play, back-checking, that kind of stuff and I think he’s changed me that way. Obviously, that was something that I needed to work on and I’d say he’s addressed it pretty well.”
In addition to working on his defense, finding the net himself may be another focal point for the rookie.
“The last couple of games I’ve scored a little more,” added Barzal. “I went through a pretty dry slump, but you know, hopefully they start coming a lot more often. But, obviously I’m happy with the way things are going.”
The injury isn’t expected to keep Barzal sidelined for long, however it has forced the British Columbia native to be taken off the Team Pacific roster as it prepares for the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge to be held in Nova Scotia from December 29th until January 4th. While disappointed not to be participating with Team Pacific in the U-17 tournament, 2013 has been a milestone one for Barzal, with 2014 promising to be even better.
“It’s been a lot of fun. The hockey has been real good and obviously the coaching staff and then the players — I couldn’t ask for much more,” said Barzal. “I’ve been enjoying it and hopefully the second half goes the same.”
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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