It was a lively night at Safeco Field on August 12, when Mathew Barzal attended a Seattle Mariners vs. Baltimore Orioles game.
The Islanders top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft (1st round, 16th overall) threw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma's no-hitter, in celebration of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds five players being drafted this past June.
“It was pretty crazy,” Barzal said. “I was a bit nervous and was at first just throwing bombs, too high or too low. Went out with my Dad a couple times to practice and found out it’s a lot harder than it looks.”
That being said, the 18-year-old center put on a great performance in front of the Seattle crowd, with a pitch landing right above home plate to first baseman Jesus Montero.
Barzal has played two years with Seattle and led the Thunderbirds with 45 assists in 2014-15, finishing second on the team with 57 points.
“When you play hockey, you’re confident. When I threw out the first pitch, I was definitely not as good as the guys in the majors, but the crowd was really great and they got loud,” Barzal said.
It’s been an exceptional summer for the Coquitlam, British Columbia native who is happy to be part of the Islanders organization and admits he wasn’t exactly sure where he was going to end up on Draft Night.
“I didn’t meet with the Islanders ahead of time. But when they traded, I had a pretty good feeling. I can’t wait to get down to New York,” he said.
Barzal’s focus for the rest of the summer will revolve around getting into a serious training rhythm, which has proven tough with recent offseason travel.
“I’ll have a solid few weeks at home to skate hard and I’m feeling confident,” he said. “Heading back to Seattle and then going to camp and training. After that I’ll go to New York in September and see how things go and learn from these guys.”
“These guys” include Isles captain, John Tavares, with whom Barzal is specifically looking forward to sharing the ice. “Seeing him play, he’s incredible; a special player,” he said.
And when it comes to playing in front of fans at the Isles brand new home in Brooklyn?
“Islanders fans are some of the greatest,” Barzal said.
“The Brooklyn exhibition game [Blue & White Scrimmage] we played was rocking. The building is first class and being that close to the city, I think it’s going to be great.”