Islanders Adam Pelech finally getting respect as top defenseman

Adam Pelech #3 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Adam Pelech #3 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech is getting the recognition he deserves as a top defensive defenseman in the NHL.

New York Islanders fans know Adam Pelech‘s worth. He’s not putting up a ton of points, his 21 points in 2018-19 was a career-high for the top-pair defenseman. Pelech doesn’t put up points and isn’t a flashy player on the ice. His play is subtle and unless you’re watching him you don’t really notice him.

So you can excuse non Islanders fans or media for not necessarily knowing about Pelech. But when the third-round pick from 2012 was forced to sit out the rest of the 2019-20 season due to a torn Achilles tendon on January 2, it became clear just how much Adam Pelech meant to the Islanders.

With Pelech in the squad in 19-20 the Islanders held a 25-10-3 record (fourth-best record in the NHL), but when Pelech was out the Isles sank to a 10-13-7 record (26th best record in the NHL). Now, clearly, that slide can’t solely be blamed on Pelech’s absence, but not having him was a big reason why the Isles dropped out of a typical playoff spot. He’s a top defenseman and the Isles missed him.

Top Defensive Defenseman

On Wednesday, Architecte Hockey’s Bryce Chevalier rated Adam Pelech as the top defensive defenseman in the entire NHL between 2017 and 2020. Something Islanders fans have been saying for two years now.

Remember when we thought Garth Snow was silly for protecting Adam Pelech in the Vegas expansion draft? I do. It’s clear Garth had a good sense of what Pelech might become. Unfortunately, it took a top tier coach to bring that out of Adam Pelech.

Again, Pelech isn’t going to put up a ton of points, but what he does is vital in today’s NHL and specifically in Barry Trotz’s system. Pelech is incredible at keeping the slot clear. HockeyViz has great visualization of Pelech’s ability to keep the slot clear. The Islanders 2.31xGF/60 at 5on5 with Pelech is 8% below league average.

In today’s game, we know that most scoring chances come from the slot. Defensively, teams want to keep that zone clear. Barry Trotz often talks about how opponents can have the puck as long as they want against his Islanders. He’s confident they won’t find success because he knows that his team can clear the slot with players like Adam Pelech out there.

Lou Lamoriello, Barry Trotz, and Islanders fans know how valuable Adam Pelech is not only for the Isles but in today’s game. It’s nice to see him getting some recognition outside of the Island.