The New York Islanders haven’t traded for a defenseman, and aren’t likely to acquire one in free agency. What would their blue line look if they didn’t add anything?
We all expected the New York Islanders to make a trade at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. But when both Wahlstrom and Dobson fell within their reach, the Islanders had no choice but to take them.
Which meant that the Islanders lost their two biggest assets in order to bring in a top-four defenseman. Their two top-half first-round draft picks. They left the draft with some outstanding prospects, but they didn’t get that top-four defender they wanted.
Looking at the free agent market for defensemen, there isn’t much out there that should entice the Islanders. A trade obviously still remains possible, but any movement looks unlikely at the moment as teams start to transition to the few weeks of summer break between free agency and training camps.
So as we transition to the summer break, what does the New York Islanders blue line look like?
(Adam Pelech)Scott Mayfield
I wanted to make sure the lefty-righty balance stayed even. NHL coaches care about how their defense is structured in terms of “handedness”.
The Islanders top pair looks good. There’s no doubt that Leddy had a down year in 2017-18, but under Barry Trotz, he should be able to bounce back in 2018-19. Pulock shot up the Isles defensive depth chart last season. He looked comfortable with Leddy on the top pair and should continue to do so in his sophomore NHL campaign.
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Boychuk still looks as solid as ever, when healthy. But Boychuk is 34-years-old and injuries are already starting to mount for him. Looking back on his career, he hasn’t played a full season once. Assuming he stays healthy all year long isn’t a safe assumption.
Regardless of his ability to stay healthy, Boychuk is that veteran presence on the Islanders blue line. That’s why paring him Devon Toews is the perfect fit. Toews has the offensive skills, learning to play D in the NHL is something every rookie needs to learn.
The bottom pair is absolutely up for grabs and can –and should- fluctuate based on the opposition. The trio of Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield and Sebastian Aho should fight it out night-in and night-out.
All three bring a different set of skills to the table. Aho is better at moving the puck out of the defensive zone. Pelech is a better shutdown player. And Scott Mayfield adds a physical element that comes with a 6’4” frame. Mayfield also isn’t bad in front of goal with his 0.96 points per 60 (fifth for Isles defensemen).
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Sure, most of them were around last year when the New York Islanders had the worst defense in the league. But I think most of the Islanders woes were down to coaching. Bringing in a coach with a goals-against record in the top half of the league over the last three years is going to make a big difference.