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Top 25U25: #10 Adam Pelech needs to find a role

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Adam Pelech was much maligned by LHH last season where he was largely playing over his head due to defensive injuries. With a new coaching staff and a (hopefully) healthy defensive corps, can Pelech find a role that works for him?

New York Islanders v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

After a decent 44-game showing in 2016-17, the New York Islanders relied heavily on Adam Pelech in 2017-18, to very mixed results. Pelech’s 78 games in the NHL this past season established his spot with the Islanders, leading the team to reward him with a contract extension with a cap hit of $1.6 million until the end of the 2020-21 season.

In those 78 games last season, Pelech scored 3 goals and 19 points in an expanded role due to injuries to Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk. Then-head coach Doug Weight used Pelech on every defensive pairing at some point in the season, played him around 20 minutes a night, gave him top penalty kill minutes and also gave him fairly consistent power play time on the second unit, decisions that didn’t make much sense at all.

At 24 years old (his birthday was two days ago), Pelech seems like a known quantity to the Islanders. He’s probably not the kind of defenseman you lock in for the next three seasons, but with a new coaching staff, they may be able to find a role he can thrive in rather than playing him over his head. The biggest issue in giving Pelech his contract is the plethora of defensemen who have higher ceilings than Pelech who may not be able to crack the lineup.

Pelech’s voting average actually left him tied with Sebastian Aho, but Pelech took the #10 spot due to receiving both a higher community vote (10 vs. 11) and a higher single vote (4 vs. 6).

Adam Pelech is penciled into the Islanders starting six defensemen, but his contract is also one that can be easily waived, or he could be a good seventh defenseman if he’s outplayed at training camp. There are a lot of young defensemen knocking on the door, and while it’s pretty likely he’ll be on the Islanders for a while, his roster spot isn’t set in stone. On the other hand, with proper coaching and an actual defensive system set in place, he may be able to cut down on some of his bad decision-making and be a steadier presence on the blue line.

Rationales:

CIL:

Pelech is an NHL defenseman and will have an NHL career. He has the ability to make the quick outlet pass, or skate the puck out of the zone. He tends to be criticized for mental mistakes, but I suspect with the level of coaching coming in, this will be corrected. He should develop into a dependable 3rd pairing LD.

Mike B:

#MyUnpopularOpinion - for all his well-documented brain-farts, Pelech actually had decent overall results on a team that had precious few decent results. He just takes way to many high-risk, low-reward chances. Let's hope experience (and good examples set by coaches and teammates) teaches him better decision-making. He could be a decent-enough second pair otherwise.

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