Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com has submitted his annual rankings of the top 30 draft-eligible prospects. Check back each day as we prepare for the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on June 26-27.
|(Photo Credit: Getty Images) |#7 – MATHEW BARZAL
Center, Seattle (WHL)
5’11.5”, 181 lbs.
Best described as clone of Edmonton Oilers forward and 2011 first-overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in both body type and style of play, Barzal combines high-end speed and a superior playmaking sense in a 6-foot package.
Barzal developed in the same Burnaby Winter Club program that spawned Nugent-Hopkins prior to him becoming the first overall pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft. Barzal, of course, was selected first overall by Seattle in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.
While his size is average, Barzal’s heart is massive. He’s the type of player that is constantly buzzing around with an active stick in all three zones of the ice. His ability to read plays sees him force and collect turnovers, and his shifty hands make him quite adept at stripping pucks out of the corners.
When he gains possession, Barzal quickly morphs into a creative puck distributor, turning his body at speed to open up different passing angles. The tireless work ethic drives a well-balanced two-way game, making him a low risk, high reward prospect given the highly rated offensive skill.
Limited to 44 games after missing a chunk of the year with a broken kneecap, Barzal collected 12 goals and 57 points in his second WHL season. Following the Thunderbirds’ exit from the WHL playoffs, Barzal made a second consecutive appearance for Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, pacing the attack with 12 points (3+9) in seven games en route to a bronze medal finish.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.