How Defenseman Mike Reilly and Alexander Romanov Have Shaped The NY Islanders Blueline

As Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson has risen to potential NHL All-Star status, unsung heroes of the blue line Mike Reilly and Alexander Romanov seem to be left out of the conversation.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Rich Graessle/GettyImages
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As the young defenseman turns 24 today, it's a great time to have a conversation about Alexander Romanov being the second-best defenseman on the Islanders. His defensive partner, Noah Dobson, has quickly become the Islanders' best defenseman. But people seem to forget that Romanov is a big part of Dobson's development. As good as Dobson is, his numbers wouldn't look half as good without Romy rising to his potential and assisting Dobson on the blue line. Both players are young stars who will only continue to improve over time, but it's ridiculous that Romanov seems to be forgotten about.

Romanov is like a secret weapon on the Islanders' blue line - he's young, an outstanding skater, stronger than anyone would think, and keeps his feet moving. As Butch Goring loves to point out on the broadcast, the Islanders continuously let goals in when they stop moving their feet, and that is something that Romanov never does. He knows when to throw the body and loves laying massive hits that get the crowd rocking. But what's most notable is that he knows when to lay a hit and when to rely on his skating abilities to keep up with his man, boxing them out using his body instead. Romanov has averaged 22:48 minutes per night, and as overplayed as many believe he and Dobson are becoming, Romanov is an incredible skater who hasn't looked as fatigued despite how many minutes a night he's playing. Romanov's style of play has allowed him to stay on top of his game and keep his legs under him for 60 minutes.

In the offensive zone, Dobson has been dominating most forwards on the ice and is making himself known amongst the NHL. But, none of that would be possible if not for his trust in Romanov. Dosbon knows he can skate up and join the rush because Romanov is able to hold the fort down in the defensive zone and at the blue line night in and night out. Romanov has also become more comfortable with his shot, tying his career-high in goals just 38 games into the season. Romanov is also a +11 on the season, and while plus/minus isn't the greatest stat at showing defensive vs offensive abilities, I do think it shows how successful both Romanov and Dobson have been playing in both zones. They have become a solid shutdown defensive pair while the Islanders are missing Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.

Romanov missed training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery on June 6th after the Islanders were knocked out of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes. Romy was questionable to return for the start of the 2023-24 season but has shown no lingering effects, putting his body on the line, blocking shots, and throwing hits all over the ice. Now, I'm not saying that Romanov is as good of a defenseman as Dobson and should be in the All-Star conversation - what I am saying is that Dosbon would not and could not be the player he has become this season without the help of Romanov. He wouldn't be as comfortable taking chances in the offensive zone and has learned how to play a strong defensive game from Romanov. The two can transition fluidly, play a great two-way game, and rely on each other when the other wants to jump up on the rush. One defenseman can't make a team successful, but Romanov and Dobson have become grade-A players who the Islanders can rely on to play 20+ minutes a night and be successful on both ends of the ice.


The fact that the Islanders got Mike Reilly for literally nothing is laughable. Claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers on November 25th after the Islanders lost Pelech and Sebastian Aho in the same game, Reilly has made a strong to stay in the Islanders' lineup even after the blue line is healthy.

He had only played two games for the Panthers with zero points, a -2 rating, and only seven shots on goal. The 30-year-old is in his ninth NHL season for his sixth NHL team. But it seems that in playing with the Islanders, Reilly has finally been given his chance to shine.

Starting from his first game, fans quickly realized how solid of a defenseman Reilly is. He throws big hits but often relies on his speed and natural defensive abilities to control his gameplay. He's an excellent passer and has made some amazing plays that may not always lead to goals but create chances and rushes for the Isles. He's solid in his own zone, blocking shots and getting gritty to box players out.

Reilly also isn't afraid to play a strong offensive game, and Islanders fans are excited to see a bottom six defenseman show offensive abilities, something that has been missing from this team for a while. in just 18 games with the Islanders, Reilly has 3 goals and 5 assists. He is also averaging 9.61 shots on goal per 60 minutes and 16.45 shot attempts per 60 minutes, most among all NHL defenseman this season.

The Islanders have long struggled with transitioning from the defensive to the offensive zone, but Reilly has changed the game for the Islanders. He's strong with the puck and can carry it into the offensive zone, meaning the Islanders can rely less on the dump-and-chase game they love. He's great at jumping up on the rush and uses his speed to stay up with even the fastest Islanders forwards, but can recover and skate back in an odd-man rush by their opponents. Despite coming into the locker room about a quarter of the way through the season, Reilly has looked like he belongs in this group and has made an argument for Lambert not taking him out of the lineup once everyone is healthy. As far as I'm concerned I would much rather see Reilly playing with this team than young defensemen Aho or Sam Bolduc as the season progresses and everyone gets healthy.

Reilly has an amazing hockey IQ and is able to read the game in a way Islanders fans haven't seen in a while. He's not the biggest guy on the ice but uses his speed and strength to make outstanding defensive plays and is still amazing in the offensive zone. Even though he only has eight points on the season thus far, he makes an impact every time he steps on the ice on both ends. One flaw some might point out is that Reilly continues to take a lot of penalties, and that comes with his style of play, Reilly has 12 penalty minutes in 18 games which is far more than he should be taking.

reilly has been a terrific addition to the organization and has brought another element of life and excitement into this team.