Islanders’ Mayfield off to Hot Start

New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield was a healthy scratch in the team’s first two games of the season. Coming into the lineup for Luca Sbisa, Mayfield was given a chance in Game No. 3, and has since run away with the opportunity as he leads the Islanders’ blue line with five points (one goal, four points) in as many games.

Mayfield’s Offensive Outburst

On a team with Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, and others, it’s pretty crazy to think that Mayfield leads the Islanders’ defense in scoring. Even more surprising is that Mayfield has two more points than the other six defensemen to dress for the Islanders this season combined. He has also tied for fourth on the team in scoring, two points back of Mathew Barzal’s seven points for the team lead. And while others like Leddy, Pulock, and Johnny Boychuk get ice-time on the man-advantage, Mayfield has played a total of 10 seconds on the power play this season.

Mayfield made his season debut on Oct. 8 against the San Jose Sharks. In that game, Mayfield jumped into the play and wristed a shot through traffic and past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones to make it 2-0 New York.

In Anaheim on Wednesday night, Mayfield’s shot that deflected off two Islanders (first Ross Johnston, then the eventual goal scorer, Casey Cizikas) led to the team’s only goal of the game in a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

However, it was the following night in Los Angeles where people began to take notice of the 26-year-old. In a dominant 7-2 win over the Kings, Mayfield recorded the first three-point game of his NHL career with two primary assists and one secondary helper. Both primary assists came from getting the puck on goal with a shot that led to a rebound for Cizikas to put home and a shot that was deflected in by Andrew Ladd.

“Last night I was looking more to drive wide and create that way and it didn’t really work,” Mayfield said after Thursday’s win over the Kings. “Tonight I was looking to create space at the blue line to get shots going. We have so many guys that drive the net and get sticks on shots that’s all I really need to do.” (from ‘Staple: The surprising surge from Islanders’ bottom lines is a short-term boon and long-term concern’, The AthleticNHL – 10/19/18)

Related: Islanders’ Culture Change on Full Display

As a bonus, Mayfield’s three-point night, accompanied by a plus-five rating put him next to some pretty elite company. According to Eric Hornick of NYISkinny, Mayfield became just the third Islander defenseman in franchise history to finish a game with a plus-five rating and three assists. The last Islander D-man to do so was the legendary Denis Potvin back in 1982.

Is the Offense Sustainable?

For now, Islander fans are definitely enjoying the offensive contributions of not only Mayfield but bottom-six forwards like Cizikas and Valtteri Filppula. The question is, is this unexpected offense from Mayfield sustainable to an extent?

I think everyone can agree that Mayfield won’t be averaging a point per game for much longer. But what are realistic expectations for Mayfield given his hot start? Prior to the start of this season, Mayfield had five goals and 22 points in 83 games. His career-high for points in a single season was set last season with 12 (two goals, 10 assists) in 47 games.

Scott Mayfield - Islanders
Scott Mayfield, New York Islanders, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While his 80-point pace certainly won’t last, the St. Louis, MO native is enjoying his great start to the season but is more focused on winning. “I’ve got to be happy with it right now,” Mayfield said, “I know what it feels like to go on a really big slump, too, in this league. The biggest thing is winning. It doesn’t really matter how many points I have.” (from ‘Scott Mayfield gets his chance and makes some points with Islanders’, Newsday – 10/19/18)

If he keeps finding the open shooting lane and getting shots on net, the points will keep coming for Mayfield.

More Than Offense

Numbers and statistics aside, Mayfield has been gaining the trust of the coaching staff with each and every game. In his season debut, Mayfield played 13:56 and through his four games played he has ice-time has progressively gone up, playing 20:05 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

On the penalty kill, Mayfield is sixth on the team and fourth amongst Islander defenders, averaging 1:40 a night shorthanded. From a defensive standpoint, Mayfield is currently averaging 1.6 shot blocks per game which is good for fourth on the team. His plus-three rating is the fourth best on the team, trailing his defense partner, Thomas Hickey who is a plus-five.

The 6-foot-5, 223-pound defenseman also brings a lot of physicality to his game. In addition to averaging 1.4 hits per game, Mayfield has dropped the gloves twice, taking on rookie Max Comtois in Anaheim and Barclay Goodrow in San Jose.

For now, it is fun to watch Mayfield and the bottom-six get involved in the scoring but eventually, the Islanders, who are 3-4-0 to start their season, are going to need more from their defense and top-six forwards. Jordan Eberle has two assists through seven games, Anthony Beauvillier has no points in six, and as previously mentioned, the entire Islander defense, excluding Mayfield, has a combined three points.