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Barzal eager for shot as No. 1 center of Islanders: report

Calder Trophy winner expects expanded role with loss of Tavares in free agency

NHL.com @NHL

Mathew Barzal is eager to take over as the No. 1 center of the New York Islanders following the departure of John Tavares.

Barzal told Newsday he's talked with new Islanders coach Barry Trotz about his responsibilities after Tavares left to join the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent, signing a seven-year, $77 million contract July 1.

 

[RELATED: Wahlstrom aims to make big impact for IslandersLamoriello respects Tavares' decision to leave]

 

"He said it would be different my second year," Barzal, 21, said in a story published Saturday. "I'll get more attention and, without John, it will be amplified. I'm excited about that. That's being competitive. I take that more as a compliment, more of a respect thing."

Barzal led the Islanders with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) last season, when he won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. It was the first time since 2013-14 that Tavares, who had 84 points (37 goals, 47 assists), did not lead New York in scoring.

"He's a high-end talent, that's for sure," said forward Matt Martin, who was re-acquired by the Islanders in a trade from the Maple Leafs on July 3.

Video: Dunkin Donuts Breakaways: Barzal's backhand beauty

Martin played with Tavares in New York for seven seasons before signing with Toronto on July 1, 2016, as a UFA.

"I don't want to say he's happy about John leaving, I'm sure he's not that type of guy," Martin said of Barzal. "But he does have a chip on his shoulder. I think he believes he can be one of the best players in the League. And you're going to have to have a bigger role to do something like that."

Trotz, who was hired by the Islanders on June 21, told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on Thursday that he views Barzal as a "building block."

"I've talked to all the players about what I expect," Trotz said. "We're making some good headway. What's been a blessing, was when John made his decision, the players texted me saying we're going to be just fine. That's a huge step for any organization going forward.

"I think we're heading into the right direction. I know it's a big blow and everyone has the sky falling, but we're a young team. The future is really bright for the Islanders. We're right around the corner of doing something great."

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