After a 2017-18 season significantly hampered by injury, what should we expect from New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk in 2018-19?
The 2017-18 season was a continuation of a theme for New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Injuries. In 2017-18 Johnny Boychuk missed a ton of hockey. He played a total of 58 games for the Islanders. His lowest since the 2009-10 season (not including the lockout year).
During his entire NHL career, Johnny Boychuk hasn’t played a full NHL season. He’s injury prone. But when you look at the style of hockey that Johnny Boychuk plays it adds up.
Boychuk plays big minutes and plays a tough physical game. That style is going to lead to injuries. Hopefully, the New York Islanders are going to reduce Boychuk’s minutes this season to below 20. If they do, they might just keep him around for longer than 70 games.
Are You Listening, Isles?
At the start of training camp, the New York Islanders seem to want to continue paring Boychuk with Nick Leddy at the top of the lineup. I understand not wanting to pair Leddy with Ryan Pulock. Two offensive defensemen on the same pair doesn’t necessarily work.
And it’s not like there’s anyone better in the lineup to replace Johnny Boychuk next to Leddy on a full-time basis. Adam Pelech featured briefly two seasons ago and looked O.K. But Pelech is a lefty like Leddy. Typically teams want a right-handed shot on the right.
That leaves Scott Mayfield, who much like Adam Pelech is OK. So, again, Boychuk looks like the best bet to pair up with Nick Leddy. That’s inevitably going to result in Boychuk missing time. And force the Islanders to put an OK solution next to Leddy while Boychuk heals.
This can be avoided if the Islanders are willing to be a little risky and put Ryan Pulock next to Leddy. Aside from the “Boychuk will play more if you play him less” narrative I’m pushing, it’s clear that at 34-years-old, Boychuk’s impact is diminishing.
*All stats from Johnny Boychuk’s Hockey-Reference page
Since being acquired just before the season opened in 2014-15, Johnny Boychuk has been diminishing. He’s scoring less, he’s getting fewer shots on net, he’s hitting less, and he’s blocking fewer shots. Those are the hallmarks of Boychuk’s game.
He’s no longer the same player he was when the Islanders acquired him at 30 years of age in 2014. He’s still a good defender. But there’s a clear case here that he shouldn’t be on the top pair anymore.
The Islanders are still on the hook to pay him $20.5 million over the next four years. If they plan on getting any value out of that $20.5 million, they should reduce his time on the ice.
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I expect the Islanders will come to the same conclusion that I have and put Boychuk on the second pair. If so I expect Johnny Boychuk to put up 25 points and play in 75 games this season.