Are the New York Islanders hoping to improve offense issues by calling up an offensive-minded AHL defenseman?
The Islanders announced Friday, January 3 that Adam Pelech is out for the regular season with an injury to his Achilles tendon. The surgery and recovery will take four months, having him back, hopefully, for the playoffs. The team’s top defenseman was reportedly hurt in a “freak accident” before the Isles faced the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
According to Arthur Staple, GM Lou Lamoriello refuses to give more details beyond the injury occurring in pre-game activities before the team hit the ice for warm-ups.
Over the last two years, Pelech has fully proved himself as a dependable defensive defenseman under Trotz’ system. He was averaging 21 minutes on the ice this season and has 9 points (1 goal, 8 assists). Replacing him is tricky, and Lamoriello already said he’s not a trade deadline fix.
Though Thomas Hickey seems like the obvious replacement, a left-handed defenseman with plenty of NHL experience, he’s hurt… again. Noah Dobson also doesn’t seem quite right. He skated in Pelech’s place on Thursday but did not have an impressive game. In order for right-handed Dobson to receive the regular spot, Trotz will have to fully juggle the defensive pairs. Dobson would probably be best paired with Johnny Boychuk, the rookie’s volunteer mentor.
Not to be confused with the Carolina Hurricanes’ forward Sebastian Aho, the Islanders’ Sebastian Aho is among the top-scoring defenseman in the AHL. He has 20 points (2 goals, 18 assists) in 34 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers as well as some NHL experience. In 2017-18, he spent 22 games on the Islanders roster as a rookie, accruing just 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists). He was also selected for the AHL All-Star Classic just hours after the call-up from the Islanders for the third consecutive year.
“If I do my job well enough and they think I deserve a shot, I’ll get one,” Aho said back in December. “Can’t let it affect what you’re doing. Do your job; that’s all I try to do.”
Well, he’s done his job enough to impress Lamoriello. Can he continue to do his job in the harder, faster NHL? Besides having the best numbers in Bridgeport, the Islanders chose him for his scoring skill. Hopefully, he brings enough defensive game to replace Pelech as well as enough offensive game to relight some sparks behind the floundering Islanders scorers.
So far, rookie call-ups have gone very well for the Islanders. Oliver Wahlstrom, Cole Bardreau, and Otto Koivula all had successful stints in the NHL when replacing injured forwards. Let’s see how well this rookie call-up goes on defense.
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