When New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello reached a deal with defenseman Adam Pelech, fans rejoiced. The legendary GM inked the blue liner to an eight-year deal worth $46 million, with an AAV of $5.75 million per year.
This made Pelech’s posse — a group of fans dedicated to the defenseman and his ability — celebrate, touting that Lamoriello had done it again, and rejoicing in the fact that a core part of the club is staying in Long Island.
The 27-year-old posted four goals and ten assists in the 56 game season, which may not seem all that impressive. In the playoffs, he recorded five points (one goal, four assists) in 19 contests, helping the Isles advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second year in a row.
In his career, the Toronto, Canada native has 75 points (16 goals, 59 assists) in 303 games, after he was selected by the Islanders in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft. But, his real contributions come as a lockdown defenseman, and Adam Pelech is considered to be one of the best in the league. His role on the Isles is clear: eat big minutes, guard the zone, and don’t make mistakes. And he quietly fills that role with poise.
Check out some of Adam Pelech’s highlights from the season below, proving why he’s regarded as one of the best defensemen in the NHL.
Adam Pelech, coast-to-coast
It was the kind of goal you’d expect from a forward and, again, the kind of goal that comes when a club needs it. In a contest against the Washington Capitals, Adam Pelech was the penalty kill hero, skating from the Islanders’ own zone into the Caps’ offensive zone and blasting a slap shot home from the blue line.
It was a true goal scorer’s goal, and tied the contest up at two apiece. Moments like these are the ones that fire the Pelech posse up, and prove why he is worth every penny of his contract.
Penalty kill proficiency
We already know he can score short-handed, but Adam Pelech is an artist on the penalty kill for more than one reason. He’s also more than adept at ensuring the opponents cannot score. In a contest on January 26, Pelech was a key piece on the penalty kill, blocking huge shots to hold the capitals off from scoring on a five minute Leo Komarov penalty.
Then, he was crucial in holding the Flyers off on March 26, after Mathew Barzal took a double minor. The Flyers’ penalty kill was hungry, but Pelech took a nearly two minute shift (1:40, to be exact) and held his own in the defensive zone, blocking shots and making sure he was always in the appropriate position.
The fact that he spent so much time on the penalty kill (and is a huge reason the Islanders’ shorthanded percentage is among the best in the league) makes Pelech’s +15 rating on the season all the more impressive.
His one-timer in the playoffs
Pelech’s only goal in the playoffs came against the Boston Bruins in the second round, and it was not one to be forgotten.
The one-timer found its way to the back of the net through traffic, tying the first game of the series at two goals apiece. It was a big goal when it counted, and was evidence that Adam Pelech is always there when his team needs someone to step up.
Pelech playing playoff minutes
In the first game of the 2020-21 NHL playoffs, the New York Islanders found themselves up against an all-too-familiar opponent: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Playing against Crosby and the other offensive dynamos on the Pens roster–including, but not limited to, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust–requires a lot of defensive play, and any mistake can prove costly. Enter Adam Pelech. He stepped up to play nearly half the game–recording 29:18 of ice time in the Isles 4-3 overtime victory.
On average, Pelech posts anywhere from 20 to 23 minutes in a night, chewing up a huge chunk of ice time and playing solid, responsible hockey. This is Adam Pelech’s value. He can play a lot, play well, and be relied upon night in and night out.
Adam Pelech gets his respect in the Bruins series
Yes, Pelech scored one heck of a goal in the Isles’ playoff series against the Bruins. However, that wasn’t what made him a bonafide defensive star. He finally got the recognition he deserves as one of the best stay-at-home defensemen in the NHL in Round 2 of the playoffs for his physicality.
Pelech was throwing hits, blocking shots, staying in position, and doing everything he possibly could to ensure that the Bruins’ key pieces in Taylor Hall, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, became reduced threats for the Islanders’ goalies.
Ryan Pulock, Pelech’s defensive partner, made the block of the postseason when he stopped a shot with his hands in the Islanders’ series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Pelech makes solid, often unappreciated plays night in and night out to ensure that his team doesn’t get scored on.
It’s not often flashy or grand, but Adam Pelech is quietly one of the most effective, vital defensemen in the NHL.