The NY Islanders have had a plethora of injuries throughout the 2023-24 season. The defensive unit has taken the hardest hit, as the opening night roster has rarely seen the ice together. Since then, Scott Mayfield has missed time on two separate occasions, resulting in 15 games lost. Adam Pelech hasn't played since taking an ugly hit against the glass on November 24th. Sebastian Aho has also missed eight games, and Ryan Pulock has been out since December 7th with a lower-body injury. Even newcomer Robert Bortuzzo has been out recently with a lower-body injury taken against the Colorado Avalanche.
As with every professional sports franchise, other players on the roster must step up in the wake of injury or down performances. Noah Dobson has taken the biggest brunt on defense, now averaging just under 26 minutes of ice time per game. Ilya Sorokin has played in seven straight games struggling with his workload. It’s clear that the star players are doing their part in surviving without Pelech, Pulock, and Semyon Varlamov, but which players have gone under the radar during this stretch of games?
1. Samuel Bolduc
When injuries occur early in the season, trade possibilities are limited, leaving teams looking internally for replacements. This was the case following Mayfield’s injury on opening night as Samuel Bolduc was called upon. Through 29 games played, Bolduc has recorded one goal and two assists while blocking 34 shots. He has averaged 13 minutes per game.
Coming off two appearances in the playoffs last season against the Carolina Hurricanes, Lou Lamoriello and Lane Lambert had high hopes for Bolduc in taking that next step as a 23-year-old defenseman. However, Bolduc did not perform well early in October or November, having a -5 rating with just ten shots on net and averaging under ten minutes per game. He's turning the puck over regularly and had miscommunications with Pulock as a defensive pairing.
Suffice it to say, Bolduc has improved immensely with regular playing time in December and January. He has been moving the puck well enough that he has joined the Islanders’ 2nd powerplay unit. All three of Bolduc’s points this season came in the ladder half of December, trusted with 16 minutes of ice time per game in January. His improvement can be directly correlated to the acquisition of Bortuzzo and the return of Mayfield, as their veteran presence has drawn extra attention to detail from the young defenseman.