The other day I wrote about how the New York Islanders should explore trading Nick Leddy away before losing him for nothing in the Seattle expansion draft later this month. One of the biggest critiques of the piece was: “who will carry the puck”?
That’s a really valid point. Looking at the Islanders roster, Nick Leddy seems to be the defensive core’s puck mover. There isn’t another name on the list of Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Andy Greene, and Noah Dobson that screams ‘puck mover’.
But what do the underlying numbers say on the subject? Is Nick Leddy the puck mover from the blue line?
Who is the New York Islanders best defensive puck-mover
I want to define what I mean by “puck mover”. To me, it’s not just about who carries the puck into the O-zone the most. I know that’s typically what everyone looks at, but I’m more concerned about who is the most well-rounded puck mover. What defenseman is trusted the most to move the puck out from the D-zone and into the O-zone?
I’m consulting Corey Sznajder’s work for this piece. If you haven’t consulted Corey’s work I suggest you do. He tracks a number of events, but what I’m interested in the most here is zone exits and entries.
My goal with this piece is to see who is the best puck mover on the blue line. We already know who the best overall puck mover is for the Islanders, that’s Mathew Barzal. But what about on the blueline? We think it’s Leddy because that’s what the eye test tells us, but is he actually?
Here’s what I found when consulting Corey’s work about puck carrying stats:
What jumps out here is that Leddy is clearly the guy when it comes to entering the offensive zone. At least when isolating defensemen. His 58% carry-in percentage is almost double the next highest player (Pulock and Dobson at 32%). Though Pulock still has top honors for the most entries per 60.
But when it comes to exiting the defensive zone Leddy isn’t at the top. In fact, he’s closer to the bottom.
In terms of carry-out percentage (carry-outs here are zone exits with possession and doesn’t count zone clears), only Scott Mayfield is lower. Although to be fair, four of the six are pretty close from 35% to 42%.
But even on a per-60 basis, Leddy is lower in terms of exits with 14.03. Only Pelech and Greene have less. Ryan Pulock shines pretty largely here with the second-highest exits/60 (16.6) and with the second-lowest fail rate (per 60) at 1.794.
Pulock’s carry-in rate may be lower than Leddy but he’s clearly the better and more trusted “puck mover” for the Islanders. So while Leddy is a good offensive puck mover, and clearly a great skater, we can’t discredit Ryan Pulock’s impact as a puck mover for this team.