Steady Leddy

Calvin de Haan is the latest New York Islanders defenseman to be placed on injured reserve.

The 2009 first-round pick has not played since suffering a lower-body injury vs the Detroit Red Wings February 15th. 2013 first-round pick Ryan Pulock has been called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. Pulock is the 10th different defenseman to be on the Islanders roster this season. Despite all of the roster movement, there has been one constant, Nick Leddy.

The 24-year-old is the only Isles defenseman to play in all of their games. Five defensemen all spent time on injured reserve; Thomas Hickey (19 games missed), Adam Pelech (13 missed), Johnny Boychuk (11 missed), Travis Hamonic (four missed) and now de Haan (two missed). Brian Strait and Marek Zidlicky, who should not be in the lineup together, have played together 26 times this season. Leddy weathered the storm while both Boychuk and Hamonic were out.

Big things were expected from Leddy this season. Acquired by the Islanders from the Chicago Blackhawks for goaltender Anders Nilsson along with defensemen T.J. Brennan and Ville Pokka, Leddy went from the third defensive pairing to the top pairing with the Islanders. He had 10 goals and 37 points, which led all Isles defensemen. His career season was rewarded with a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million dollars ($5.5 AAV).

Leddy has been a workhorse ever since entering the NHL. He had a string of 320 consecutive games played snapped last season when he missed four games with a shoulder injury. The Isles went 0-4 in those games.

He started the season going scoreless in his first seven games and didn’t light the lamp until his 39th game of the season on January 2nd. Leddy really started hitting his stride following the Christmas break. In his last 22 games, he has 4 goals and 15 assists with points in five straight. Leddy is one of the top skaters on the team and the top skating defensemen. His smooth skating into the offensive zone, carrying the play when needed and also knowing when not to pinch. He was rewarded for it last season, the start of this season, not so much. The ice at the Islanders new home, the Barclays Center, clearly had something to do with it. Leddy and his teammates had to adjust to the ice surface there. He also was not shooting as much, just seven shots in his first 10 games. Since the start of 2016, Leddy has 34 shots in 19 games. Even with the slow start, Leddy (28 points) is on pace to set a career high in points.

Pulock Era Begins?

General manager Garth Snow and the Islanders brass have handled Ryan Pulock very carefully. He made the club out of training camp due to Hickey’s injury. He did not play and was returned to Bridgeport. I have seen first hand what Pulock can do. His 105 MPH slap shot is certain to boost the power play. His offensive skills were never in question. The team wanted the 21-year-old to work on his defensive game. Isles fans were screaming when prospects Scott Mayfield and Pelech were recalled before Pulock.

Head coach Jack Capuano needed defensive minded “shutdown defensemen” at that time. During that time, Pulock became more of a well-rounded defenseman. Pulock can actually thank Scott Mayfield for his promotion. Mayfield was suspended three games by the AHL for an illegal check to the head in Bridgeport’s game against Springfield February 16th. Mayfield, who has played three games with the Islanders this season has served two of the three games. His final game of the suspension is Friday against Providence. With Mayfield suspended and Pelech out indefinitely, the choice was Pulock.

De Haan practiced with the team Sunday for the first time since the injury. He is expected back in the middle of the Isles seven-game road trip. The two-time AHL All-Star Pulock’s stay could be short or he can prove himself once in the lineup that he deserves to be here full time. The roster expand March 1st and the Isles can keep eight defensemen with the team.