Islanders’ Adam Pelech showing again why he deserves to be among NHL’s elite

When it comes to the elite in the NHL, it’s a very select group. They are the best of the best and are spotlighted at length because of it. The Islanders do have someone in this category. And here’s a hint: it’s not Mathew Barzal. Barzal gets the most recognition because he’s the biggest name for the organization right now.

So if it’s big Barzal, who is it? Answer Adam Pelech. Pelech? Yes it’s him. You wouldn’t know it because the Isles are not given the same respect as other clubs around.

If you watch the Islanders play and Pelech is on the ice, your eyes immediately are glued to him. His unassuming but excellent play, creativity in defending opponents and underrated skill all make him somebody you need to watch. Take it from NBC’s Pierre McGuire who has worked a good portion of both playoff series the Isles have been in. McGuire made it a point in the Penguins series to point out why Pittsburgh needed to go after him at all cost. That’s been the same message for the second round as the Islanders play the Bruins.

You don’t get that much attention without being good.

Pelech is that talented.

He’s continued to evolve under head coach Barry Trotz. He is elite by his coach’s and teammates standards. While some may argue because of his low offensive numbers — Pelech has just one point in the playoffs and recorded just 14 points in the regular season —  keep him from being in the conversation with the Victor Hedmans and Roman Josis of the world, he is still one of the better two-way defenders in the league.

The 26-year-old Pelech has been tasked along with his D-partner Ryan Pulock in helping shut down the Boston’s “Perfection Line” after having to deal with Sidney Crosby in the first round. Those two did a wonderful job eliminating Crosby, who was limited to just two points in six games. Pelech really turned it on in the final three contests and didn’t allow 87 any chance to do damage. It’s been a different story through the first two games against the Bruins, but Pelech is showing he can hold his own.

If the Islanders are able to overcome Boston and Pelech excels, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get the recognition he’s long deserved.

Game three tomorrow night is expected to be another huge moment for the Nassau Coliseum. It’s the first time in 28 years the building will have hosted a game in the second round of the playoffs. And with the Isles series tied at one, the Coli is expected to have an electric atmosphere believes Casey Cizikas.

 

Adam Pelech’s underrated offensive skill has come to light for the Islanders this season

When you think of the Islanders’ blue line and the word offense, you’re most likely to stop at two specific names: Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy. Those two are far and away the club’s two best offensive d-men. Their point totals through 25 games prove it — Leddy with 16, Pulock with ten.

But as the season has progressed, another defender has quietly shown his nack for getting in on the attack, Adam Pelech.

The 26-year-old Pelech has seven points this year, fourth-most for an Isles D. That might not sound like much, but it shows he has tried to contribute more with the puck on his tape. And there have been instances where that mindset has really come to the forefront.

Pelech’s underestimated offensive skill set has been lauded by head coach Barry Trotz for awhile now. During the Isles’ long postseason in the bubble, Trotz talked about Pelech hitting his stride in that department. The most common used term though is “deception”. Obviously it’s carried over to this season as Pelech has already totaled 40 shots this season and is a +6.

“I think you’re starting to see that side of his game a bit more,” Trotz noted a few weeks ago. “You see him getting up in the rush more, he’s more comfortable with that.”

Now while Pelech’s offensive outlook pales in comparison to how he’s viewed as a defender — Pelech is considered one of top defensive d-men in the NHL — there’s no denying the increase in production adds another layer to what makes him such a valuable piece to the Islanders. As said before, the Isles depend on 2 and 6 to be the main drivers offensively on the back end. Throw Noah Dobson in there now too if you’d like for what he’s added, 11 points in 25 games.

But Pelech? It’s almost an added bonus because he’s relied upon so much to be a shutout number-one D.

No longer having Johnny Boychuk and Devon Toews (both known for their offensive contributions) on the blue line also has to be taken into account with why we’re seeing a bit more attack from No. 3.

Pelech has come a long way from two years ago where his spot on the Isles’ d-core was in question. Flexing his muscles offensively only strengthens how much of his game has evolved.

And as the Islanders continue to win, and the more he shows that side of him, the even scarier they will be moving forward.

We’ve written about how terrific Anders Lee has been for the Islanders all season long. But one star might stand above the rest.

According to NHL.com’s Pete Jensen, the Isles’ captain is the only player in the league this season with ten or more goals, three or more shots on goal per game and one-and-a-half hits per game.

Currently, Lee has three goals in his last four games and is on pace to score over 35 goals by season’s end.

Mathew Barzal’s otherworldly goal over the weekend had everyone trying to figure out how to describe what they had witnessed. Even himself had no words for what he was able to pull off.

New York Islanders: Predictions for the 2021 season

 Anthony Beauvillier , New York Islanders

The New York Islanders season finally begins tonight after a 3-month layoff since their last game. I just want to say what a great job the NHL has done handling Coronavirus. Not a single league, other than maybe the UFC, has handled COVID-19 better than the NHL.

Back to the Islanders. This 2021 Islanders team is basically the same team as the 2020 team, but it feels different. With additions of Ilya Sorokin and other 3rd liners. The development of Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Kieffer Bellows. This team, on paper, looks better than the 2020 team, even without Devon Toews. Hockey is finally back, and with a new season comes new predictions.

Top New York Islanders predictions for the 2021 season:

Mat Barzal Bounces Back

It’s weird when a pro-athlete scores 60 points in 68 games, and it’s a down year. But this just shows how talented Mat Barzal really is. My biggest critique of Barzal at one point was the fact that he never shot the puck. Barzal would always pass it to someone who was covered instead of taking an open shot. Barzal only took 170 shots last year, he needs to take around 220 in a full season. But then the playoffs came, and he finally started shooting the puck. And when a dangerous player gets the puck on the net, good things happen. With a good backcheck and some more effort on defense, it looks like Barzal could become a top center in this league.

Anthony Beauvillier Leads the Team in Goals

This is somewhat of a bold prediction due to the goal scoring talent at the center position. Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, and Mat Barzal are normally the ones who lead the team in scoring. But, there’s something undeniable in the way that Beauvillier plays. He’s a baby flame who’s just getting ready to scorch the whole house. With linemates like Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson, there’s a big possibility that this can happen.

Adam Pelech gets in the Norris Trophy Race.

Adam Pelech has been the Islanders’ best-kept secret for the longest time. Pelech is probably the most underrated defenseman in the entire league. I would go as far as to say that Pelech is the most important player on the team. The Islanders slumped so terribly when Pelech got hurt the Isles went 10-13-7 and let up around 3 goals a game. But, when Pelech’s healthy, they went 25-10-3 and let up only around 2.5 goals a game. If the Norris trophy actually focused on defense, Pelech would’ve won it by now.

Ilya Sorokin Wins the Calder

The rookie of the year goes to the 25-year-old Ilya Sorokin. There’s actually zero doubt in my mind about this. The only thing that may be holding him back is the fact that Varlamov is the starter. Sorokin was the best goalie outside of the NHL. Now that he’s here, I don’t know if anyone can stop him.

The Islanders have two Top 100 players, but should there be more?

When the Islanders open their regular season Thursday night, they will have two of the best players in the league taking the ice for them, Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock.

The Athletic NHL released its Top 100 Players tier list for the 2021 season yesterday and it was Barzal and Pulock who made it for the organization. Barzal was placed in the Tier 3 group under the “All-Star” umbrella while Pulock finds himself in the fourth tier for players who are at the “Top of the lineup”.

The newly extended Barzal — he and the Isles agreed to a new three-year deal over the weekend — many on the panel believe he hasn’t reached “franchise player” worthy level just yet.  “Mathew Barzal regarded as highly as he should be by the model, which doesn’t see just how involved he is in transition. The franchise-player tier is a tough sell for now, with the net results including his production being great but not quite elite,” was how he was described at the moment.

The argument about Barzal’s production is valid. Take out his Calder Trophy winning season in 2017-18 where he led the team with 85 points, and Barzal has only tallied 122 points  and 37 goals. Now it’s true, those numbers probably take a hit because of the defense-first mentality employed by head coach Barry Trotz. But Barzal is now being paid as an elite player, so his production needs to reflect that.

This is not lost on him too. He said on Saturday after signing the deal that “consistency” was going to be the most important thing with him being paid $7M a year over the next three seasons

Pulock making the list comes as quite the welcome surprise.

He’s definitely emerged as the Isles’ best and most reliable defenseman outside of his d-partner, Adam Pelech. Pulock’s numbers at both ends of the ice have continued to improve each year, but he hasn’t launched himself towards the upper echelon of d-men in the league.

This season could change that. He was was rewarded with a new two-year, 10M contract back in November and is considered to be on the rise. For right now, he’s earned the title of becoming a dominant player.

So, with two of the Islanders most prominent players listed, the question needs to be asked: should there have been more?

Pelech and forward Brock Nelson deserve some consideration.

You could make the argument that Pelech should have made the list ahead of a guy like Jake Muzzin who was in the final tier as a 4C.

Pelech has evolved into one of the top defensive d-man in the over the last two seasons and remains criminally underrated. The offensive production isn’t on the same level of Pulock, but you’d have a hard time finding a guy whose so instrumental to their team’s success. Last season and the playoffs were perfect examples.

As for Nelson, there’s no question he is the Isles’ second-best forward behind Barzal. His level of play has reached incredible heights under Trotz — 25+ goals and 50 or more points the past two seasons — and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

One other name who could find himself on the list soon is Anthony Beauvillier.

His postseason performance opened up a lot of eyes and now he’s expected to become an elite player this season.

Some might want to pull out there hair, but the cap manipulation Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello has been able to pull off is sorcery. Having to pay Andy Greene and Matt Martin — both recently re-signed — a combined $2.2M for this year is a nod to his genius.

Yes, Greene’s performance bonuses if he reaches them can have a negative effect on the cap in the summer, but Lou still deserves credit for getting him to sign below what he might have gotten on the open market.

Josh Ho-Sang cleared waivers to no ones surprise. Now it’s on the team whether or not they want him in Bridgeport according to the New York Post’s Mollie Walker. Ho-Sang intends to be there and hopefully the team gives him that chance.

The Coliseum is ready for its final, final go around. A happy and sad image at the same time.

Islanders’ Adam Pelech finally getting the recognition he deserves? Just maybe.

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

For awhile now, Adam Pelech has seen his stock rise as one of the key defenseman on a solid Islanders’ defense.

Pelech, 26, has emerged as one of the cornerstones on the Isles’ blue line who they hope is here for the next decade. And he’s only continued to get better under head coach Barry Trotz’s defensive system.

But recognition from around the NHL has been hard to come by as opposed to what Isles’ fans,  his teammates and coaches already know about the Toronto native. That being he is one of, if not, the most underrated and under appreciated defenders in the league.

Just maybe though, that narrative is beginning to change.

Yesterday, Bryce Chevallier, who is a data scientist and does hockey analytics for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, sent out a series of tweets talking about analytics from his site architecte-hockey.com. One of the tweets included a list of the top-five defensive players in the NHL over the last three seasons (2017-2020). At the top of it was Pelech.

Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar, Washington’s Nick Jensen, Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Toronto’s Travis Dermott rounded the rest of the group.

Chevallier noted that the rankings consulted from defense being measured by chance suppression weighted by direct contributions such as rush defense, forechecking and takeaways in key areas of play.

“What stands out for Pelech are his remarkable scores on both defensive styles, added Chevaillier. “He also has the puck carrier attribute meaning he uses modern defensive styles but he can also cover deep as a top stay-at-home defenseman. Just admire those defensive stats.”

I’m no analytics guy — far from it — but it seems all those fancy stats show just how much Pelech has evolved.

And yes he’s evolved more than anyone could have imagined.

There was a time when former Isles g.m. Garth Snow was ridiculed for protecting Pelech in the expansion draft so that the Vegas Golden Knights couldn’t steal him away. Even more to that, Pelech was struggling and scratched a number of times during Trotz’s first year behind the bench. You look back on it now and those two moments feel like they were a long time ago. When in reality, it’s only been about three years.

Pelech’s transformation can be easily spotted when you watch him play now. All you have to do is go back and watch the mastery he’s pulled off the last two postseasons where he shut down Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin. Pretty impressive list, no?

Still, the attention paid towards him doesn’t even come close. That could change now.

Besides Chevallier’s analysis, Pelech has probably the best contract in the league for a top d-man. He’s due for a nice raise next offseason, and by all accounts he will get his bag. Plus at 26 Pelech hasn’t even reach his prime yet.

Now that he’s coming off another impressive season, one which saw him get sidelined in early January only to see him come back for the bubble postseason and then get hurt again in the Conference finals, the conversation might be shifting. And rightfully so.

Pelech has deserved recognition from those outside of Long Island for some time and now he’s beginning to get it.

New York Islanders: Adam Pelech must be re-signed now

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have to resign key players like Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech next year. Adam Pelech must be resigned right now, and there’s no debate about it. The Islanders with Pelech is like Barry Bonds with steroids.

Already a great team made even better by an outside force that’s underappreciated. The Islanders were 25-10-3 when Adam Pelech was healthy. And the second Pelech tore his Achilles, the Islanders dropped basically every game. They went 10-13-7 and were going to miss the playoffs until COVID. Let’s see what his contract would look like.

Length

If the Islanders can sign Pelech long term, there is no way they won’t. But, the salary cap is tight on the Island, so this might end up being a bridge deal. For the sake of argument, I’m just going to say that he gets signed long term. Now, how many years does this contract entail? 6 years seems perfect for the poke check master. It’s not a short deal, and it isn’t the maximum amount. It gives flexibility for both sides if things go sour. Hopefully, it won’t. Pelech deserves some big money, but how much?

Money

This contract is not going to be cheap at all. Adam Pelech is a top 20 defenseman in the league to people who actually know Hockey. I would even go as far as saying he would be in the Norris trophy contention if the offensive game wasn’t so heavily praised in a defenseman. Adam Pelech should earn $6-6.5 million a year for his efforts. This is a pretty generous deal for the Islanders. Pelech will take a slight pay cut to stay on the Island and win here. It’s the same thing Ryan Pulock did. Pelech will take the pay cut so the Isles can resign Beauvillier and Casey Cizikas, and others. These players aren’t greedy, that’s why they’re here.

Adam Pelech’s postseason not talked about enough among Islanders’ run

New York Islanders, Adam Pelech

When the New York Islanders take the ice tonight, they’ll be fighting to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. How they’ve gotten to this point — game five of the Eastern Conference Finals — has been talked about at length. And while most of it has been about the goaltenders, the incredible postseasons for Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Matt Martin, or even his so-called “replacement” back when he was hurt (Andy Greene), one element that maybe hasn’t received maybe the same amount of attention is how sturdy Adam Pelech has been.

The 26-year-old Pelech has been the team’s best d-man and he’s re-affirmed the notion he’s one of the most underrated blueliners in the sport.

Pelly is hitting his stride,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said about him during the team’s first-round matchup against the Washington Capitals.

In that series, which the Isles won decisively in five, Pelech did an excellent job shutting down Caps star Alex Ovechkin. It was really a masterclass in defending one of the games’ greatest goal-scorers; a repeat of Pelech’s work in the playoffs last spring in the first round against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Islanders D as a whole only allowed seven red lights the entire series, with the goals only coming from Ovi and two other Capitals’ forwards (T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov).

Pelech though was the real star of the series.

“All those instincts that make him a good defender are getting acutely sharp,” Trotz added.

But it hasn’t been just the series against Washington where Pelech has thrived. Really it’s been the entire playoffs, even with the step up in competition this round against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The numbers might not look great — and that’s what usually comes about when you’re going up against Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point most of the time — but Pelech has been able to hold his own. He even scored his first-ever postseason goal in the Islanders’ only win of the series in game three, something Isles fans are not used to seeing. A heck of a snipe too past one of the NHL’s elite goalies in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

While Pelech still might not be a household name, it’s crystal clear how much he means to the Islanders and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the bubble. All you have to do is go back and look at who the Islanders are as a team when he’s in the lineup as compared to when he was sidelined with what was potentially a season-ending Achilles injury before the coronavirus pandemic hit back in March.

“He’s a big part of the team. He’s been a big part of the success we’ve had here,” his d-partner Ryan Pulock said about him last month. “When we found out that those guys who were hurt were all ready to come back, we knew it would give us the best chance to have success and it was big for us.”

The Isles have made big strides this postseason, and Pelech deserves credit for a good amount of it. He’s been the one in the background just continuing to get the job done. His play hasn’t been talked about enough.

Not anymore.

 

New York Islanders: 3 Stars of the Game 3 Win

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have made the Eastern Conference Finals a real series. Game 3 was easily one of the most entertaining games of the 2020 playoffs. The Islanders played their hearts out, and it shows. A mix of desperation and frustration led them to clutch out the win. There were three stars that led the Islanders to victory last night. Their efforts did not go unrecognized, and honestly, I believe three stars are too little to show how good the Isles played last night. But, without further ado, here are the three stars of the night.

Semyon Varlamov

Amazing is almost an insult to how Semyon Varlamov played last night. Varly single handily kept the Islanders’ hopes alive. There were 3 or 4 sequences from the Lightning last night that should’ve been goals, but Varlamov stood on his head. I don’t know what changed for Varlamov from the regular season to the playoffs, but he’s just been fantastic. Even though he did let in 3 goals, there was a possibility it could’ve been 6. The Isles fans are 110% behind their outstanding goalie.

The 4th line

I have to include the entire 4th line here because, oh my god, what a game they played. J.G. Pageau was acting like a goon out there, and he’s a foot shorter than every other player. Not only did Pageau play like an enforcer, but he got an assist on the beautiful Adam Pelech goal and scored the empty-net goal. Don’t forget about the line clearing brawl at the end of the game. Victor Hedman had to save Kucherov from Pageau. Matt Martin continued his hot streak and played amazing defense. Great forechecking as well, as always, and he clocked Barclay Goodrow in the back of the head six times. Sydney Martin has got to be proud of her husband. Also, can’t forget about Cal Clutterbuck sniping Vasilevskiy to open up the scoring. 4th line looked amazing even without Casey Cizikas playing.

The “B” line

When the “B” line gets hot, it’s normally “goodnight Jim Kite.” Josh Bailey had two assists last night as he continues his quest for the Conn Smythe. Anthony Beauvillier scored last night on a beautiful play from Brock Nelson. Not only that, but Beauvillier assisted Nelson’s game-winning goal with a beautiful turn around pass. Brocktober came early Isles fans. Brock Nelson was in prime form last night and would win the game for the Isles. The second line continues to be dangerous.

Honorable Mention

Also, as an honorable mention, what a game for Adam Pelech. Pelech scored his first career playoff goal, so congratulations to him. It was a total snipe, and it got all the Islanders fans excited. Especially the #pelechposse created by Jake Basile (a.k.a. @BathtubJake on Instagram). Pelech was thumping too, a bunch of big hits for the big man. Great game from a shutdown defenseman.

New York Islanders: 3 Key Players to Game 3’s Win

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

Impressive is almost an insult to how the New York Islanders played in game 3. The Flyers maybe won all of 10 minutes out of a possible 60. This game was a swing game, meaning whoever won gets all the momentum in the series. The Islanders got all the momentum and then some. There were three key players to their win, and their play was sensational, to say the least.

Mat Barzal

Mat Barzal missed two golden scoring opportunities in 20 seconds. Barzal made up for this by collecting an assist on the Islanders’ first goal of the game. It’s not easy being double-teamed, especially in Hockey, but Barzal makes it look like it’s an average morning skate. Barzal has woken up since the Florida series. He used to be the turn over machine, but now he’s opening up the offense. Barzal is making smart plays, especially on the power-play, and when Barzal is on his “A” game, the whole team is.

Semyon Varlamov

Islander fans everywhere were frightened to see a repeat performance from game 2 out of their goalie. Varlamov was on his head the entire game. Nothing phased him, not one shot. Varlamov made it look very easy tonight, and that’s a relief to Islander fans. You can’t go far in the playoffs with bad goalie play, just ask the St. Louis Blues. Varlamov got the job done in game three and possibly may play again in game 4.

Adam Pelech

Who’s the most underrated player in all of Hockey right now? If you guessed anything other than Adam Pelech, you’ve guessed wrong. When the Islanders lost Pelech, the team suffered heavily and got away from Islanders Hockey. Now that he’s back, the Islanders are the most dangerous team remaining. Pelech has amazing stick skills, and he’s strong on the puck. Not only is Pelech solid defensively, but Pelech also creates a ton of offense from his neutral zone play. He did it last game on JG Pageau’s game-tying goal, and he did it this game as well. Adam Pelech continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL.

Honorable Mentions

The captain Anders Lee has arrived, and when your captain scores every game, you better believe the team follows. Lee has six goals now in the playoffs; for someone who disappears typically in the playoffs, Lee has been “captain clutch.” Derick Brassard played a great game as well. Set Leo Komarov up for his goal, when he kept the puck in the offensive zone with 10 seconds left. Glad to see the 3rd line wingers creating offense.

Conclusion

The Islanders have two more wins left to close out this series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993. The Islanders are real contenders, and the NHL better start respecting them.

New York Islanders: The Adam Pelech Effect

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been absolutely sensational these playoffs. Pelech originally was having a great year during the regular season but ended up going down with an Achilles injury. This injury would sideline him for six months. Pelech would miraculously return for the play-in round and dominate. The Islanders are a totally different team with Pelech.

Pelech’s Impact on the New York Islanders

The Islanders were lacking without their top-line defenseman. It was apparent in their four-goal blown lead against the Capitals in January and all the way through the last seven games of the season. Pelech possesses amazing stick skills. The Islanders fans like to call it “The Pelech Poke.” Pelech is a huge part of the Islanders’ success. Not only does he create turnovers in the defensive zone, but he creates offense by his neutral zone play. When the Isles were without Adam Pelech, they let up 3.2 GAA and went 10-13-7. When the Islanders were with Pelech, they let up 2.61 GAA and went 25-10-3. This is not a coincidence. Pelech is an unsung hero of the Isles defense, and one of the most underrated defensemen in the league.

Playoff Pelech

Adam Pelech is arguably a 3 star of the game player every night. From body slamming Panthers to stopping Ovechkin, Pelech does it all. Not to gloss over Pelech shutting down Sidney Crosby last year. Pelech most recently had a beautiful assist to the Captain Anders Lee in game three vs. the Capitals. The pass somehow found its way to the far post after sneaking its way through 4 players. It was just another example of how Pelech isn’t just a defensive defenseman.

Conclusion

Adam Pelech is one of the unknown weapons of the Islanders. If it wasn’t for Pelech, the Islanders probably wouldn’t be in the second round right now. Pelech should be in the running for the Norris trophy very soon.