Islanders Defensemen Healthy And Ready To Go

The Islanders Tuesday night played the six defenseman (Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, and Ryan Pulock) that fans have been screaming for all season. The move proved productive as Hamonic and Hickey scored two of the three goals in their win against Vancouver.

de Haan, the 12th overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft returned to the lineup Tuesday after suffering a lower-body injury February 15th against the Detroit Red Wings. The Isles went 3-2 in his absence. de Haan joined Hickey (19 games missed), Adam Pelech (13 missed), Boychuk (11 missed), Hamonic (four missed) as defensemen to have been on injured reserve this season.

de Haan’s forced the Islanders to recall prized prospect Ryan Pulock. The 15th overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft made his NHL debut Sunday in Edmonton. Pulock was passed over this season for Pelech and Scott Mayfield. Isles brass wanted Pulock to improve defensively  before bringing him up. The 21-year-old did not disappoint Sunday night. He played just under 15 minutes (2:37 of it on the power play) and looked solid in his own zone. Pulock is known for his 105 MPH slap shot. Ask Oilers goaltender Cam Tabot about that. Pulock’s shot on the point of the power play stunned the goaltender for a minute.

Islanders fans have to have realistic expectations for Pulock. He can excite you one play, make a rookie mistake the next. Fans will live with the rookie mistakes over Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky’s mistakes. New York can ease him in on the third pairing. Pulock is the tenth different defenseman to suit up in an Islanders uniform this season.

Under The Radar

When Hickey was claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings back in January 2013, it was assumed that the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft was a placeholder until the team improved the blueline. Hickey proved to be an ironman the previous two seasons, missing only one game. The team rewarded his play with a three-year contract over the summer. Hickey is a perfect third-pairing defenseman. The 27-year-old might be undersized (6’0″, 189 lbs), but do not tell him that. He holds his own physically and doesn’t back down. Hickey’s possession metrics have been solid this year, coming in at third among the Isles’ defensemen in Individual Fenwick and Corsi per 60 minutes. He is also getting involved more offensively by jumping into the zone and getting his shot off. The current road trip, the team’s longest of the season, Hickey has two goals in the past three games.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Boychuk and Nick Leddy were paired together immediately following the trades to the Islanders back in October 2014. The duo played the entire 2014-15 season together.  They entered this season also playing on the top pairing when head coach Jack Capuano decided to make a switch.

It didn’t work early on and we just had to split them up.

Boychuk played with de Haan, while Leddy played with Travis Hamonic. When Boychuk was out for five weeks due to an upper-body injury, Capuano kept Hamonic and de Haan together and the results were very favorable. When Boychuk returned Capauno decided to play Boychuk and Leddy once again. Leddy is the only Isles defenseman to have played in all of the team’s games.

More On The Way

General manager Garth Snow said that Pelech, who has been out with an upper-body injury since January 14th, could be ready to return by April. His exact injury or illness has never been disclosed, but it was a serious issue. Pelech surprised everyone in his seven games with the team. The 21-year-old showed poise and held his own in the defensive zone. His return will provide even more depth to a well-rounded defensive unit.