The Islanders lost two of their top-three defensemen in a span of a week early this month when Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic went down with injuries. Boychuk injured his shoulder December 31st vs the Buffalo Sabres and Hamonic injured his ankle January 7th against the Washington Capitals. New York was to be without the two for multiple weeks. The Isles were facing a crossroads. The Isles allowed 4+goals in the first four games without Boychuk. How would general manager Garth Snow respond? Should he overreact and make a trade? Should he look to Bridgeport for reinforcements? He went with the latter and found perhaps a diamond in the rough.
The Isles and their fans received some bad news Monday as the team announced that Pelech will be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Pelech was a late scratch on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks. The word “indefinitely” is never a good sign.
The 21-year-old was a surprise call up back in November when Thomas Hickey when down with injury. Pelech played two games before being sent back to Bridgeport. Pelech did not embarrass himself in the two games. Pelech returned a month later to take Boychuk’s place. The third-round pick in the 2012 draft has played 5 games since his second call up and looks like he is here to stay. Pelech isn’t flashy. He doesn’t have to be. He’s a solid physical defenseman with a NHL body (6’3″, 210 lbs). Pelech had an eventful first game vs the rival New York Rangers. He registered his first two points of his career. The second coming well after the game when he was credited with an assist on Kyle Okposo’s empty net goal. He also sacrificed his face taking a Derek Stepan skate while breaking up the play. Like a true hockey player, he got stitched up and assisted on Brock Nelson’s goal. Pelech’s emergence will certainly soften the blow when Travis Hamonic gets traded. Pelech has certainly earned the trust of head coach Jack Capuano.
He’s got a real good hockey IQ, a really active stick and he trusts his feet. The young players work hard to get here and he’s showing he wants to stay.”
Pelech’s injury will likely result in Ryan Pulock being called up. Pulock’s 105 mph shot will certainly boost the power play. Like all young defensemen the 2013 first-round pick needs to work on his skating and has turned his attention on his defensive game.
The 34th overall selection in the 2011 draft was called up when Hamonic went down. The Isles had faith in Mayfield to play in games 6 and 7 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs the Washington Capitals last season without playing any regular season games. The 23-year-old has the size (6’4″, 224 lbs) that you would want in a defenseman and isn’t afraid to use his body. He’s currently the most physical defenseman on the roster. Mayfield has played in two games since his call up and has averaged 14:39 minutes on the ice. He should get a bump in minutes with Pelech being out.
Calvin de Haan
The Ontario native has flown under the radar for most of the season but has gotten first pairing minutes with the absence of Boychuk and Hamonic. de Haan has certainly risen to the challenge. The rise of the 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft has certainly been methodical. de Haan missed 9 games due to injury and was a healthy scratch for 8 games of the last 24 games a season ago. He has proven he can stay in the lineup this season as he had played in all of the team’s 45 games. Capuano has certainly seen an improvement in his game.
“Best he’s played for us. He’s a big reason why we’re having some success with those two guys out.”
Both Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic skated before practice on Monday. The Islanders get a break in the schedule as they play just 3 games through February 2nd. They have recorded nine of a possible 16 points over their last eight games (4-3-1) and sit alone in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19