ISLES QUESTION – Why Aren’t The Kids Playing More Or On The Third Pair This Year?

ISLES QUESTION – Why Aren’t The Kids Playing More Or On The Third Pair This Year?

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There seems to be some questions or complaints from fans on why we haven’t seen the kids called up for use on the 3rd pair. In knowing that Brian Strait was an emergency plug-in, we saw poor analytics. He also made his pair-mate, Zidlicky look worse than he was playing. With Thomas Hickey back, Strait goes back to sitting. Hickey will bring balance to the dark side…. errrr… the third pair. He was frequently underrated by fans. Zidlicky will look a lot better due to Hickey’s presence, as well. 

Furthermore, some complain that the Isles don’t have more than two homegrown defensemen currently.

So let’s take on both these items…


1. Isles Playoff Aspirations:
I think this has been made quite clear. This team is no longer a rebuild situation. Due to this, can’t have it both ways. Is this about competing now or play kids with all that comes with that? I think we know the answer here. Do we need another Donovan situation that includes lots of sitting? Because fact is… kids sit a lot when being eased into a rebuild or NHL-level competition. More on this in #3.


2. Used two homegrown defenders as assets: Isles have used one homegrown D (Ville Pokka) to get Nick Leddy and another was used as an asset (Griffin Reinhart) to strengthen future forward corps last draft. Remember Isles have impending UFA’s and RFA contracts.


3. Good teams let their D spend extensive time in AHL (see Alzner and others)…. As team gets better, it becomes harder to make roster. PLUS: If Isles had kids on 3rd pair, they would play fewer minutes and top 4 will inevitably wear down due to having more minutes… which brings us back to #1. The Isles prefer their kids getting more minutes and play on the AHL level, until they make an undeniable case.


So a lot of it is the middle ground of wanting the competition and next level… which means kids see some time in some spots… but will still require AHL time to develop.

The Islanders still will see some dmen come up when it isn’t Hickey that’s out. We are only 25 games into the season. Pelech has seen two games. When opportunity occurs (and AHL play merits it) we will see Mayfield and Pulock in spots down the line. All in good time.



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  1. Nice post and I think it really is what we are looking at. It’s funny how we as fans can be so fickle. We complain that Bailey was rushed, or Nino was put in a bad situation on a poor 4th line. Then we want to bring in Pulock at barely 19 years old pair him with a still effective, yet older Zidlicky – or worse, throw him into the fire on the 2nd pairing.

    I understand why fans want to see guys like Pulock, Pelech and Mayfield. They may be better than the 3rd pair we have – or they may not. But I truly feel this team is building towards something that could be pretty special. If it takes another 1/2 season to a year to see this kids, but it makes them better – I am all for it. We aren’t rebuilding anymore, but we are still building this team.

  2. Mayfield looked more than comfortable in the playoffs last year, and can handle the physicality of the NHL. He could’ve easily taken Strait’s minutes and improved upon them. Zidlicky has looked horrible on defense. I know his strength is offense so hopefully Hickey helps him out.

  3. Until I saw Bridgeport play the Comets here in Utica, I was calling for Pulock to be called up too. But after watching him live, it’s clear he needs to work on his skating. He was constantly getting beat to the puck on dump ins, with guys skating right around/by him. Mayfield, on the other hand, was clearly the best player on the ice. He even scored a goal that night.

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