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Mat On A Mission

Mathew Barzal is giving his all as he vies for a spot on the Islanders roster

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

Mathew Barzal delivered a wow moment on Monday night. 

Circling his own blue line, Barzal gathered the puck, turned on the jets and blew by three New Jersey Devils penalty killers before going upstairs over a diving Keith Kinkaid. Barzal's third goal of the preseason embodied everything the Coquitlam, BC native was advertised to be when the Islanders drafted him 16th overall in 2015: a speedy, skilled center with great vision and an ability to finish. 

Video: NJD@NYI: Barzal shows off speed and shot on PPG

The goal and the 3-0 win over the Devils didn't count in the standings, but it sure counted for Barzal. After being one of the Islanders' last cuts in 2015 and being returned to Seattle after playing two NHL games last season, Barzal is on a mission to leave no doubt that he belongs on the team this season. 

"He did have two good camps and forced himself to stick around, but he tailed off a bit in both of those and I've seen none of that [this year]," Head Coach Doug Weight said Monday morning. "He was dynamic with the puck in both of those, we've seen more of that this year."

That was Monday morning. By Monday night, Weight said Barzal had done enough to that point to earn a spot on the roster.

Weight doesn't plan on using Barzal sparingly when he makes the jump to the NHL. The Islanders' coach has said that for his young players to be an effective part of the team, they need to be in positions to succeed. 

Tweet from @NYIslanders: Media: "Does Barzal make the team based on what you've seen so far?"Dougie: "Yes." pic.twitter.com/ynRtMdas2h

For an offensively-gifted player like Barzal - who had 278 points in 202 junior games - it means playing in offensive situations. Barzal spent time with John Tavares and Jordan Eberle on the Islanders' top power-play unit Monday night - after practicing with them all weekend - and has gotten in-game looks with Andrew Ladd, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee. 

"I'm just trying to work hard and take advantage of the opportunity that they're giving me right now," Barzal said. "They're putting me in some key situations, playing the power play, so just trying to make the most of it and do everything right."

That's been Barzal's goal since being sent back to Seattle last season. Weight said that Barzal took it hard when he got assigned to juniors, but accepted the challenge to keep improving by scoring 79 points in 41 games and winning a WHL championship with the Thunderbirds. 

"I saw him in the playoffs and he was hard to play against, but not just because he had the puck," Weight said. "He was battling he was in good position, had good sticks and little things that you go from being a great talented kid to a great talented player. He's taken steps."

Video: Barzal's Quick Move Ties It Up

He's made an impression on the Islanders veterans too. 

"You can see it from the first day he was here a couple of years ago," Tavares said on Monday night. "His skill set is his edges and his poise out there. He had some great wheels on his goal and certainly will be an asset for us going forward. You can see the enthusiasm and the creativity that he has."

By the coach's account, Barzal has been humble, hard working and eager to learn at camp. He's hit all the right notes, showcasing his speed, skill and hockey IQ, while mixing in a few wow moments along the way.

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