Could New York Islanders' Nick Leddy Emerge as Number One Defenseman?
Apr 2, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) brings the puck up ice as Buffalo Sabres left wing C.J. Smith (49) pursues during the first period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Leddy has the puck-moving ability to carry the New York Islanders in the playoffs — but only if he takes the next step.

From his perch atop Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, SNY writer Andy Graziano sees it all: hard hits, slick dekes and impressive helpers.

So it’s not surprising that Graziano, who’s covered the Islanders for The Hockey Writers and FanSided, believes that Nick Leddy is the club’s top defenseman.

“Leddy can move the puck in transition like nobody else in the system can,” he said recently. “[He’s] vital to the breakout.”

In what seems to be a recurring theme, members of the media have been bestowing accolades on the 26-year-old Leddy. They’re not alone: Islanders general manager Garth Snow handed the defenseman a seven-year pact in February 2015.

With the playoffs winding down in 2016, Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated documented the plight of the league’s top blueliners — the Senators’ Erik Karlsson and the Sharks’ Brent Burns, among others.

What he noticed was predictable: these guys boast the same common traits — “efficient skating, strong outlet passing abilities, the competitive desire for voluntary exhaustion, and tremendous value to their teams.”

Which makes one wonder: Just how effective can Nick Leddy be? When a player is given a seven-year deal, there are usually high expectations. If a kid’s being given that contract, odds are that the front office believes he can emerge as a star, or as blueliners go, “a number one defenseman.”

Here’s what Leddy already is: a tremendous skater who’ll tally a whole lot of points. Even though his output was “disappointing” at the start of the 2016-17 season, as Newsday’s Arthur Staple put it, he still notched a career-high in this category.

In the 2015-16 playoffs, when the Isles advanced to the second round for the first time in twenty-three years, Leddy logged 27:03 a night, good for eleventh among all skaters. Since departing the Blackhawks in 2014, his usage has increased steadily every season.

It’s this combination — a track record of logging big minutes and an ability to move the puck at ease — that has many, myself included, believing that he can develop into a top defenseman capable of carrying his team in the playoffs.

Said Graziano, “He would have to get better defensively, but there’s definitely room to grow there. Forty-to-fifty point defensemen don’t grow on trees. [The] Isles are lucky to have one.”

Lucky, indeed.


Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.