Making Sense of the New York Islanders’ Defense
Feb 25, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield (42) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets won 7-0. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders have ten defensemen for six spots — so who are the odd men out?

So, we’ve gotta know…who are the odd men out?

Even after trading away Travis Hamonic this summer, the New York Islanders still have plenty of depth on their blueline. Granted, not all of these defensemen are fully developed, but they’re all either in contention to make the team or, when injuries inevitably hit, fill in on the big league roster.

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When the Isles were in the league’s cellar, they accumulated a plethora of draft picks. Some of the players they selected were forwards, while others were goalies. But far and away, the position that Garth Snow and his staff targeted the most was defense.

Calvin de Haan (selected 12th, 2009), Scott Mayfield (34th, 2011), Adam Pelech (65th, 2012), Ryan Pulock (15th, 2013), Devon Toews (108th, 2014) and Sebastian Aho (139th, 2017) make up the list of defensemen who were drafted by Snow since 2009. They have one major thing in common: they’re all fighting for one, possibly two roster spots. These are spots that, in the grand scheme of things, could end up determining the team’s playoff fate.

Let’s start with the obvious: Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and de Haan are all almost guaranteed to make the team, if they’re not traded prior to the season. They’re all dependable defensemen who, at certain points, can look like budding stars. Especially Leddy, who has the potential to be a traditional number one defenseman for the Isles.

CHECK OUT the New York Islanders Team Center: News, Stats, Standings

But after that, things get a little nebulous. Besides the aforementioned draft picks, the Isles have Thomas Hickey and Dennis Seidenberg, two older (relatively speaking, in the case of Hickey) guys who have proven to be solid, if unspectacular, over the years.

So who makes the team? Who doesn’t?

Snow has exhibited a propensity to go with veteran defensemen over budding defensemen. It isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing; it simply is what it is. For that reason, it seems clear that Seidenberg, who was just re-signed for another season, will take a spot on the last pairing instead of sitting in the press box.

The other two slots are a little more confusing.

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Between Leddy, Boychuk, de Haan and Seidenberg, the Isles have three left-handed shots and one right-handed one. Ideally, the two other players will likely be right-handed shots.

Which leaves Pulock and Mayfield, the top prospect and the dependable up-and-comer. No, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. The former can help anchor the power play; the latter can add the grit and toughness that this team so desperately needs.

But it would complicate things for Doug Weight, who would not only have to explain to Hickey why he’s not playing every night, but would have to balance the minutes of multiple defensemen. He’d also run into problems with Pelech, who was valuable enough to warrant an expansion draft protection — but evidently not valuable enough to be put into the lineup.

Here’s what that would look like:

Leddy — Boychuk
de Haan — Pulock
Seidenberg — Mayfield

Ultimately, whatever Snow and Weight decide to do will leave somebody unhappy. More importantly, whatever they do will leave the Isles with too many defensemen for too few spots.

Unless, of course, Snow shocks the world makes a trade. To be continued…

 NEXT: Sebastian Aho Signs Entry-Level Contract With Islanders 


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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.