Mathew Barzal’s recent phone conversation with Team Canada co-general manager Marty Brodeur was fairly straightforward. The Islanders rookie jumped at the chance to play in next month’s World Championships in Denmark.
“When the best player in the world, at 20 years old, is going, Connor McDavid, it’s pretty easy for a guy like me, being 20, to say yes,” Barzal told Newsday on Tuesday.
Barzal, a strong candidate to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, had 20 goals and 59 assists in 79 games entering Tuesday night’s game against the Flyers at Barclays Center.
This will be the first time he’ll play in the World Championships, to be held May 4-20, but he’s played for Team Canada five times previously. That includes a gold medal in 2014 in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for under-18 squads and a silver medal last year at the World Junior Championships.
Barzal said he was excited to play with and against “some of the best players in the world,” and to try and “learn their everyday habits and pick things up from their game.”
The chance to be teammates with the Oilers’ McDavid, though, is the big draw.
“He plays such an exciting style,” Barzal said. “Just seeing him in practice and playing with him, I don’t think it will do any harm to my career, that’s for sure.”
Ice chips: Goalie Christopher Gibson was returned to Bridgeport (AHL) with the conditions of his emergency recall terminated. Gibson, 25, an impending unrestricted free agent, went 2-3-2 with a 3.55 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage for the Islanders . . . Islanders coach Doug Weight said it was “not looking great” that Nikolay Kulemin (shoulder), Alan Quine (ankle) or Shane Prince (lower body) would be able to play before the season ended.