How close was Mat Barzal to playing for the Penguins?

Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jim Rutherford of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With the 16th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the New York Islanders selected Mat Barzal from the WHL. The pick originally belonged to the Penguins.

Imagine Evgeni Malkin picking up a puck along the boards behind the net, and firing a dangerous puck up the middle of the ice. That wouldn’t be too shocking this season, but instead of being picked off, Mat Barzal swoops in out of the blue.

And, he’s wearing a Black and Gold jersey out there. I don’t know where he’d fit, but just imagine that wizardry in the Pens’ sometimes stagnant offense.

Barzal would be exactly what the Penguins need in the top six this season; he’s the modern NHL star. He’s one of the fastest players in the league, he effortlessly executes creates chances off zone entries and he’s got some incredibly silky mitts.

He’s scored 23 points in 26 games this season while driving play with a 54.8 CF%. He’s been a huge reason why the Islanders are currently first in the East division.

Everyone remotely interested in hockey has seen Mat Barzal’s goal against the Buffalo Sabres last weekend at this point. And if you haven’t, log on to Twitter or Facebook and type “Barzal” into the search bar. It’ll come up. Or I’ll just show you via the Isles on MSG Twitter account.

While the Penguins may not have passed on Barzal THREE times in the 2015 Draft, looking at you Boston Bruins, he was selected with the Penguins’ original pick. It wasn’t just the Pens who decided to skip on actually using the pick though.

On Jan. 2, 2015, the Penguins traded their 2015 first round selection and the illustrious Rob Klinkhammer to the Edmonton Oilers for forward David Perron. Oddly enough, considering Perron’s seamless fit on two contending teams in the St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights in the years to come, the trade just didn’t work out. Perron could never mesh with the Pens’ forwards and only managed 38 points in 86 career games in Pittsburgh.

A year later, Jan. 16, 2016, the Penguins traded Perron and Adam Glendening to the Anaheim Ducks for Carl Hagelin. And that trade worked out pretty well for the Pens, so… maybe it wasn’t all that bad losing out on Barzal in the end?

The Penguins don’t win the Stanley Cup in 2016 without the HBK line of Hagelin and former teammates Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel.

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The Penguins trade might have taken a year to develop, helped by a better trade than the initial Perron trade, but it paid off with two Stanley Cups. Back in 2015, the Penguins’ first rounder wasn’t finished moving around.

With the Oilers holding the pick, they decided to move it and a 2015 second rounder to the Islanders for former lottery selection defenseman Griffin Reinhart. The trade netted the Isles a couple of future stars.

In addition to picking up a cornerstone in Barzal, the Islanders flipped the Oilers’ second rounder for the 28th pick in the 2015 Draft and nabbed forward Anthony Beauvillier, a key cog in the Isles’ lineup this season.

The Penguins may have missed out on Barzal, but with two cups coming from the trade — albeit in a round-about fashion — you can’t be too mad. You can gaze wistfully off into the sunset however when the Pens’ offense inevitably stalls out in the neutral zone this season.

The Islanders haven’t won a Cup, but with Barzal and Beauvillier just 23 years old, the future is incredibly bright.

The only loser would have to be the Oilers, who gave up quite a haul for… 29 games of Reinhart. Yeeeeah. At least Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are working out.

Next. Check out how the Penguins won their third game in a row with a win over the Rangers. dark

What do you think of the slim chance that Mat Barzal could have been a Penguin? Are there any near-misses in the draft that you still think of?