With young players on the rise and older players on the decline, it’s time for the New York Islanders to reconsider their defensive lineup.
Although the New York Islanders played the majority of the 2017-2018 season without one of their core defenseman, Calvin de Haan. Losing de Haan for good to the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer will surely change the dynamic of the blue line in the upcoming year.
While the team has introduced some new prospects in the past few seasons, the Islanders have always fallen back on pairings like Leddy and Boychuk. It’s time to split the two up for good.
The top pair going into the upcoming season should be Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock.
Ryan Pulock is a Top Pair Player
While it’s true that Boychuk has been Leddy’s most frequent partner since the two players joined the Islanders, he has hit a steep decline in the past couple of seasons. His Corsi numbers have gone from impressive to average and a blast from the blue line is becoming rarer. While his veteran presence is still important in the room and potentially makes him captain material, Boychuck would do better out of the top pair.
This leaves room for Ryan Pulock who is quickly becoming a key part of the Islanders’ defensive core.
The young skater impressed last season with his stint on the top pair, becoming one of the only players the team could rely on for point production in their final stretch of games. His talent shouldn’t be pushed to the bottom pair. This season, he should play top minutes with Nick Leddy. Although Leddy had an off year in 2018, a fresh face next to him could help him bounce back to being the player we all know he is.
Middle and Bottom Pairs
Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield are solid second pair players that seem to produce the best when they are playing together. Although Hickey has been scratched often in the past season for players like de Haan and Pelech, with this new core, it should be clear that he is an everyday player and Scott Mayfield is his ideal partner for the time being. Their styles of play compliment to each other and it never hurts to give the smaller Thomas Hickey some muscle to back him up.
While Mayfield could also easily be the seventh defenseman in the case of calling Sebastian Aho back up to rejoin Thomas Hickey on the second pair, he is the best full-time NHL player to support no.14.
The bottom pair should really be the place to experiment with prospects. Both of the Islanders defensive prospects, Sebastian Aho and Devon Toews, shoot left and could easily play with Johnny Boychuk. His veteran knowledge will be put to good use while young players can try their hand at the NHL. While Aho has had a taste of the major league, Toews’ timeline was set back due to injury. Playing on the bottom pair with Johnny Boychuk would be the best way to get his feet wet.
This leaves the question of what to do with Adam Pelech. In a perfect world, Adam Pelech would be waived. He has yet to prove that he is better than either of the team’s top defensive prospects and mostly creates a logjam on the blue line. If neither young player (Aho or Toews) is called up, he can serve his time on the bottom pair with Boychuck.
This would make the final New York Islanders 2018-2019 defensive lineup look like this, barring any miraculous trades:
This lineup ensures that our prospects aren’t being left behind in the coming season.