Islanders No Surprise With Training Camp Defensive Pairs
By Matt O'Leary
When Barry Trotz released the Islanders defensive pairs yesterday it was exactly what we thought it would be for the 2021 season.
With Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz leading the New York Islanders, sometimes it’s difficult to get a read on what the plan is. Both of those NHL vets don’t like to lead on what they are trying to do for a particular season.
Well, with the defensive pairs for 2021 it was pretty obvious what they were going to do and we got that confirmed on day one of training camp. Trotz said the pairs are Leddy – Mayfield, Pelech – Pulock, Greene – Dobson.
For the regular season, the middle Pelech – Pulock pair will act as the “top-pair” but this is essentially what everyone thought it would be. This pairing has become extremely effective for the Islanders.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the pair only allowed 12 high danger goals and they were on the ice for 21 goals against. With both of those players getting 21+ minutes a night it’s impressive how good they were at shutting down opponents scoring chances.
Expect both of those two to continue to get upwards of 21 minutes with Adam Pelech as a key penalty killer and Ryan Pulock as someone who can play on both the power play and penalty kill if needed.
With the Devon Toews trade, Nick Leddy will have a much bigger role on the team. Last season he averaged 21:07 of ice time, but with an increased role on the power play likely coming we can see that number go up.
At times during his Islander tenure, he’s struggled when away from Johnny Boychuk. He’ll be put to the test with Scott Mayfield who plays a fairly similar game to Boychuk. He’s not as good as what Boychuk was in his prime, but Mayfield can act as the “stay-at-home d-man” of the pair while Leddy does his thing.
There’s no guarantee that Leddy can figure it out without Johnny Boychuk but if he’s going to do it with anyone, he likely has the best chance with Mayfield.
Then of course you have the classic veteran and young gun on the third pair. Andy Greene is heading into his age 38 season and will be paired with the soon to be 21-year-old Noah Dobson.
Last year, Dobson played a limited role getting just 13:17 of ice time on average but that should be increased this year. Both of these players should be in the 16-17 minute range when it’s all said and done.
This pair is pretty much the inverse of the second pair. Dobson, the righty is the more offensive d-man, while Greene at this point in his career is the stay-at-home guy. While Greene isn’t a long term solution, I like the thought of him taking Dobson under his wing. It’s the same reason why I’m rooting for Oliver Wahlstrom to be put with JG Pageau.
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We’ll see if Devon Toews is really as big of a loss to this d-core as some are predicting, but I’m excited to see these six get to work. I think it can be an effective unit for the Islanders in 2021.