While their forward crop might be a little thin, the Islanders on defense have as a good a system as anyone in the NHL. That system should begin to pay off for them next season as one of Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, or surprise playoff performer Scott Mayfield are early favorites to get a regular shift in the team’s top 6. While there is only one spot, the question remains, what will happen to the other two that don’t make it?
The much publicized 2012 Islander first round pick saw the most time of any of the defensive prospects this season, including one game in the playoffs. Reinhart has long been rumored to be available in trade talks, most often connected to the Edmonton Oilers. That would make sense with Reinharts connection to Edmonton having played for the Oil Kings in juniors and the Oilers big need for defensemen. In his limited NHL time this season, Reinhart left some to be desired, for me at least. He was never really impressive in any element of his game and sometimes looked slow, especially in his lone playoff game against Washington. With the Islanders depth on defense, it wouldn’t surprise if over the summer we hear more trade rumors surrounding Reinhart.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the Islanders you may be surprised to see Mayfield listed here. However, after his performance in game 6 and game 7 against Washington he has put himself into the conversation, according to Newsdays Arthur Staple.
I didn’t make it to Coli in time to hear @scottmayfield2 chat, but let’s just say he opened eyes last 2 games. In the D mix for sure now.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) April 28, 2015
Mayfield played with quite an edge during the series which is something that lacks on the Islanders blueline, especially without Travis Hamonic. If he is able to build on his game and maintain that edge and learn how to use it most effectively he could have a role on this team in coming years. Expecting him to make the team right out of camp though next season might be a bit of a stretch given his limited experience. If his playoff performance is any indication though he isn’t far off.
Pulock is a bit of a wild card for me since he hasn’t been seen at the NHL level yet. He has just missed making the team out of camp the last two seasons, and yet hasn’t been called up at all. With the expected loss of Lubomir Visnovsky, adding Pulock and his booming shot to the power play could prove to be wise for the Islanders next season. Pulock had 29 points in 54 games for Bridgeport this season, including 17 goals. While he might be unproven, unless he has a bad camp it might be wise to have him fill the sixth spot next season due to his offensive prowess.
Who I think will make it
I know it is early to start talking like this, however I would give the early edge to Ryan Pulock. Like I mentioned above, his offensive prowess alone gives him an edge over Mayfield and Reinhart. Also, Pulock will be an asset for the Islanders on the power play which struggled at times this year, no more so than in the playoffs. Although I don’t think he will make the team out of camp, I think Mayfield could play an important role for the team next season. Reinharts case is a little more complicated. While I can see him still with the organization, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is dealt to address another area of need such as a top line wing.