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Barzal, Islanders have bright future, Trottier says

Hockey Hall of Famer calls center 'great talent,' feels he can fill void left by Tavares

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

HALTON HILLS, Ontario -- Mathew Barzal and the New York Islanders have a bright future despite the departure of John Tavares, Hockey Hall of Fame center Bryan Trottier said Monday.


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Trottier, who won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships with the Islanders from 1980-83, said Barzal, the Calder Trophy winner last season, is a player New York can build around after Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent July 1.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for Mathew," Trottier said at the NHL Alumni Celebrity Golf Tournament. "I think he's going to be a young leader. He's got the opportunity and the skills and everything you need in that role."

Barzal, 21, had 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) in 82 games last season. The center's 63 assists tied Trottier's Islanders rookie record.

"For him to be an Islander and to have the kind rookie season he had, he's not disappointing anyone," Trottier said. "He's a down-to-earth kid and tying my rookie assist record was great. Sharing a record with a young, skilled kid like this is awesome. I see wonderful things for Mathew in the future and for the Islanders."

Video: Mathew Barzal takes the No. 16 spot on the list

Trottier, who is New York's all-time leader in games played (1,123), points (1,353) and assists (853), and second to Mike Bossy (573) with 500 goals, said he is also encouraged having Lou Lamoriello as Islanders president and general manager, and Barry Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup last season with the Washington Capitals, as coach.

"The credibility aspect, absolutely, instantaneously it's there. The media can't argue with their experiences and that's always been a little bit of a problem with the Islanders because if they don't do well, everybody's all over them," Trottier said. "So now with Lou there, he's got credibility. Barry's got credibility. How do you second-guess a guy like (former Islanders coach) Al Arbour, a guy like Scotty Bowman, a guy like Barry Trotz? Those guys have years and years and years of experience.

"It makes it easier for the players dealing with the everyday stuff knowing there're two guys in charge who have great winning experience. That credibility is important."

But with the loss of Tavares, who the Islanders selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft and had 621 points (272 goals, 349 assists) in 669 games, New York will have a big role to fill this season.

"That's the fun part about our game, that speculation and the anger and ire of fans, but I think for the players, it's a challenge," Trottier said. "For the organization, it's a challenge when you have a guy get injured, a guy moves on, you trade players, guys retire, that's the challenge where you have voids to fill.

"Somebody step up, somebody come in. They've got a young Mathew Barzal who is a great talent. Josh Bailey's been there for a while. He can elevate his game and there's an opportunity for him. It draws a lot of drama to it, but I think that's great because [of] the anticipation where it's 'What's going to happen, what are they going to do next?' That's fun for the game, embrace that part of it."

Though Trottier understands the frustration Islanders fans have expressed with Tavares going to Toronto, he said people should remember all he did for New York.

"It was his decision," Trottier said. "He had the opportunity, but he put his time in for the Islanders and gave his all. I don't think there should be much negativity."

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