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Thunderbirds center Mathew Barzal signs with New York Islanders

Islanders signee Mathew Barzal had 57 points in 44 games with the Thunderbirds last season. (AP)

Mathew Barzal, the no. 16 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, has signed a professional contract with the New York Islanders, the Thunderbirds announced Thursday morning.

Barzal, 18, had 57 points in 44 regular season games last year on 12 goals and 45 assists for Seattle. He followed that up with four goals and four assists in six playoff games.

Barzal, who still has three seasons of WHL eligibility left, will more than likely return for two of those seasons at the most. As a 20-year-old, he would theoretically join the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

After an injury-shortened season last year – and based on the way he has spoken about his goals for the upcoming T-Birds season – there’s a very likely chance Barzal will be back in Seattle this year. He’ll have another chance in 2016, as a 19-year-old, to make the Islanders’ roster full time. He wouldn’t be eligible to play full time in the AHL until he’s 20.

While Barzal averaged over a point per game last season, the midseason injury never really allowed us to see his full potential. This year, he’ll be counted on to be a veteran leader and the team’s top offensive producer.

Despite having personal goals that involve his own development and eventually reaching the NHL, Barzal has stated over and over again that he’s committed right now to helping Seattle win a WHL championship and reach the Memorial Cup.