Scott Mayfield New York Islanders
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield has come into his own this season, posting career-high numbers and logging valuable minutes.

Justin Weiss

Scott Mayfield may not have been the most important player entering the 2018-19 season, but the New York Islanders have benefited from his emergence as a reliable defenseman.

The 26-year-old has been a big part of the reason why the Islanders are currently sitting in first place. In 46 games, he has already set a career-high with three goals and 14 assists. The Islanders are clicking, and so is Mayfield.

Coming off their third five-game winning streak of the season, the Islanders will look to Mayfield to shut down the Chicago Blackhawks’ streaking offense on Tuesday night.

The Islanders have experienced a remarkable turnaround on defense, improving from last to first in the span of a season. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has been lauded for installing a structured defensive system, which has helped players like Mayfield put up the best numbers of his career.

The Islanders may not have improved their defensive personnel, but their defensive personnel certainly improved.

For Mayfield, consistency has always reigned supreme. With good size (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) and feistiness, he has earned a moniker as being tough to play against. But this season, Mayfield has really come into his own defensively, challenging forwards and flashing shutdown acumen.

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He has been rewarded handsomely by Trotz, who has increased his minutes to a career-high 19:00 per game. The Islanders’ rebrand is a team effort, and Mayfield has embraced his role as a gritty, hard-nosed defenseman.

The Islanders have been looking for someone to fill the void that Travis Hamonic left when he was traded to Calgary in June 2017.

Mayfield has always been a high-upside defenseman, and the Islanders recognized that, signing him to a five-year extension in January of last year. But for much of the 2017-18 season, he was as much a part of the problem as everyone else on the blueline.

This season, something has clicked.

Since Dec. 19, Mayfield has been paired with Devon Toews, a rookie defenseman out of Quinnipiac University.

It has been a successful match.

“They complement each other,” Trotz told Andrew Gross of Newsday.

It isn’t hard to see how Mayfield and Toews have emerged as the Islanders’ most trustworthy pairing.

Toews’ game revolves around his mobility (he won the CCM Fastest Skater contest at the 2017 AHL All-Star Game) and offensive acumen, while Mayfield prides himself on his physicality and shutdown prowess.

“Toews’ assets are his ability to skate and distribute the puck and move and Scotty is the big, strong defender with a really good stick and a physical element to his game,” Trotz said. “They complement each other.”

Under Trotz, the forwards are more engaged in the defensive zone, which has helped bail out Mayfield on a few occasions. But overall, Mayfield has finally come into his own defensively, which has resulted in a 16 plus-minus rating, tied for the team lead.

Speaking about his defensive partner, Toews told Gross of Newsday, “He’s developed really well. He plays a really structured and solid game. That’s the coaches putting good structure in and Scotty knowing what to do.”

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.