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30 for 30: What is the ceiling for Adam Pelech?

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As the hockey season draws near, there are many questions that will face the 2017-18 version of the New York Islanders. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made. Over the next 30 days, our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.

The New York Islanders have been waiting for their defensive prospects to step up for the past few seasons, but this year the wait might finally be over.

With the trade of Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames on the second day of the draft back in June, the number three slot on the blue line is officially up for grabs. One of those players gunning to take that spot is 23-year old Adam Pelech.

Pelech was selected 65th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft from the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. After he was selected, Pelech played two more seasons in Erie, recording a 40 and 54-point season, before finding his spot on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to start the 2014-15 campaign. The Toronto native thrived in Bridgeport, which caught the attention of the Islanders brass. After just a year and a half in Bridgeport, Pelech got the call to join the Islanders in early November. Pelech would get a few games under his belt before he was sent back down. But it wasn’t long after that he got the call again on January 1st when Johnny Boychuk got injured. After getting recalled again, Pelech showed flashes of how solid a d-man he can be.

Everything was going in the right direction for Pelech, until he suffered an “undisclosed injury”. He finally returned for the last two games in April before it was revealed he suffered from Thoratic Outlet Syndrome. As the 2016-17 season got underway, Pelech was once again in Bridgeport as one of the top-two on defense.

In early November, Pelech got the call again to the Islanders, but just a few games in to his stint, he got injured. He was put on IR and by New Year’s Eve, he was back and was back in Bridgeport. Just a few days later, Pelech was recalled, and this time he stuck with the team till the end of last season. Pelech played 44 games overall in 2016-17 and registered 10 points. His possession numbers were pretty solid throughout the season, and he continued to exhibit his sound defensive play. Pelech’s play resulted in Garth Snow giving him a four-year contract in late July. That deal was a sticking point for what the Isles coaches and management think of Pelech as a piece to the puzzle in the future.

That brings us to this season, where Adam Pelech will have a chance to solidify himself on the blue line for years to come.

Pelech will be fighting with fellow young guns Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield for that number three position. A lot of fans and writers alike have identified that they see Pelech being nothing more than a third-pairing defensemen. I think that’s a mistake. If you think about it, Garth Snow wouldn’t have thought of trading Travis Hamonic and given Pelech a four-year deal if he didn’t think Pelech will be an essential part of the teams’ defensive core in the future. He also wouldn’t have signed Pelech if he still has questions of whether Ryan Pulock or Scott Mayfield can step their game up and claim that open spot all by themselves.

Big things could be on the horizon for Pelech.

Assuming he wins the battle in training camp for the three hole, Pelech will have even more of a chance to develop his game at the NHL level. He’s shown the ability that he can play 15 minutes a night, and he could play over 20 minutes a night. By Pelech getting a chance to eat up minutes, he will be able to raise his game to newer heights. Pelech in the past has shown he’s not afraid to get in on the offense and that he’s very stable in his own zone. Having those two qualities, can make him a threat and could strengthen New York on the back-end. The 23-year old should have a ton of motivation all season long not only to establish himself as a tough defender to play against, but to help the Islanders return to the playoffs.

There will still be a number of questions about the New York Islanders d-corps this season. Having a young, hungry player like Adam Pelech will soften the blow. Pelech is ready to make the jump and show he’s the future and leave no doubt in the process.

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