Islanders’ playoff chances take big hit with loss of Mat Barzal: What it means for the Canucks
Photo credit:© Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
On Monday, the New York Islanders announced that forward Mat Barzal is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
For the Islanders, this is obviously a huge blow to their playoff chances.
The Islanders acquired Canucks captain Bo Horvat heading into the All-Star break, and promptly signed him to an eight-year extension. Horvat was brought in to help push the Islanders over the hump and get them into the playoffs, and almost more importantly, to give Mat Barzal an elite finisher to pass the puck to.
Through 58 games played this season, Barzal has tallied 17 goals and 37 assists. Since arriving in Long Island, Horvat has three goals and one assist through seven games.
As for what this all means for the Canucks, that’s where things get a little more interesting if you’re a Canucks fan.
The first round pick that the Islanders sent the Canucks’ way in the Horvat deal is top 12 protected for this year’s draft. That means that if the Islanders finish within the top 12 of the draft order, the pick the Canucks received in the trade becomes an unprotected 2024 first round pick. As we’ve seen with cases like the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche, this can be huge for teams.
The Avalanche managed to land Bowen Byram at fourth overall after Ottawa’s disastrous season following the 2017 Matt Duchene trade, while still landing Alex Newhook with their own pick at 16th overall. Similarly, the Sens grabbed Tim Stützle at third overall in 2020 after the Sharks made the playoffs in 2019, which made the acquired pick a 2020 unprotected first, rather than a 2019 first rounder.
Unexpected disappointing seasons for both teams resulted in these high picks, and it’s not hard to imagine that the Islanders could be in the same boat next season.
By points percentage, the Islanders currently sit in the 12th spot for draft lottery odds. The Islanders are 1-2-2 in their last five games, and are hanging on by a thread to the second wild card spot in the east thanks to their games in hand over some of the teams chasing them. The Canucks are going to be hoping that New York finishes inside the top 12 so that they’re forced to give up that highly-coveted unprotected 2024 first round pick when the season comes to a close.
And with Mat Barzal now out indefinitely and the Islanders already not having much success, it’s a very real possibility that the Canucks’ best-case scenario comes to fruition.
Alternatively, drafting 13th overall during this draft wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Canucks, but the idea of a potential top five pick next year is certainly more enticing.
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