Mathew Barzal drafted by the New York Islanders in the first round

Jun 26, 2015, 9:04 PM | Updated: 11:42 pm
Mathew Barzal was the lone Thunderbird to be selected in the first round of NHL Draft. (Thunderbird...
Mathew Barzal was the lone Thunderbird to be selected in the first round of NHL Draft. (Thunderbirds photo)
(Thunderbirds photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. – While it took longer than he probably thought it would, Mathew Barzal is now a New York Islander.

The Islanders traded defenseman Griffin Reinhart to the Edmonton Oilers for the 16th pick so that they could select Barzal. Coming into the draft it was thought that Barzal might go in the top 10, but in the end he slipped a bit. Still, he’s happy to be with New York, a team that is turning into a Stanley Cup contender.

“I’ll drop how many spots I need to to be on a team that is competing for a Stanley Cup,” a happy Barzal said afterward.

Ending up with the Islanders was as much of a surprise as dropping to No. 16 was; Barzal said that they were one of the five teams that didn’t interview him at the Draft Combine.

“At the start of the day if you told me I was going to be an Islander I kind of wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “For them to jump and pick me like that, it shows that they have interest in me. You really want to go to a team that appreciates your game. I’m so happy they jumped up and grabbed me.”

Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk was in attendance Friday evening and was happy to see his guy get picked.

“It’s exciting any time your players that you work with achieve something like that,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s a big honor to get selected where he got selected. It’s a good sign and he has a great future ahead of him. I’m happy for him.”

Barzal was one of five WHL players to get selected in the first round. Brandon’s Ivan Provorov was selected 7th by the Philadelphia Flyers, Swift Current’s Jake DeBrusk went 14th to the Boston Bruins, Everett’s Noah Juulsen was picked by the Montreal Canadians, and the first round ended with Arizona selecting Kelowna Rockets star Nick Merkley.

The summer will stay busy for Barzal. He most likely will attend prospect camps with the Islanders as well as Team Canada’s evaluation camp. He will also get invited to the Islanders main training camp in the fall, which will most likely cause him to miss some early games with the T-Birds.

Now that Barzal’s been picked, the work gets more intense, and he knows he has to improve.

“I’m trying to get stronger,” Barzal said. “That was a big topic at the combine, me getting stronger. Not being the biggest guy … you have to have a strong base to battle against the bigger guys.”

Also in the first round, the Vancouver Canucks selected Seattle listed player Brock Boeser with the 23rd pick. Boeser is committed to the University of North Dakota next year but there was some hope, albeit slim, that he might change his mind after getting drafted. It would be a huge pick up for the T-Birds but it doesn’t sound like he’s changing his mind.

“I’ve been asked but I’ve been sticking with (North Dakota),” Boeser said about the WHL. “I want to go to college. School’s important to me.”

The draft continues Saturday morning with rounds two through seven. Seattle’s Ryan Gropp, Keegan Kolesar and Ethan Bear are expected to be drafted.

“I’m excited for them,” Barzal said of his teammates. “I’ve been talking to them all day. I’m hoping they go early tomorrow.”

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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