Adam Pelech. A name known by all Islanders fans. Pelech is one of the NHL’s most underrated shutdown defensemen. He is loved and has quickly become a fan-favorite among the Islander faithful, but it wasn’t always that way. There was a long road to get to where he is today.
Adam Pelech’s rise started when he was drafted 65th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2012 NHL entry draft. He played 4 years of junior hockey with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). In his draft year he put up 20 points in 44 games. On March 15, 2014 Adam was ready to make the jump to professional hockey, as he signed his 3-year entry level deal with the Islanders.
Adam Pelech was a fairly unknown prospect for the Islanders. He played the 2014-15 season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Pelech had 0 goals and 11 assists in his first pro season where he skated in 65 games. In 2015-16 Adam began the season with Bridgeport but was called up by the Isles to make his NHL debut on November 13th, 2015. He accumulated 13 minutes of ice time and the Isles won 4-1 over the Ducks in Anaheim. Pelech was recalled in January and soon after, he injured himself in warmups and missed two months. Once he made his return, he finished his season with the Sound Tigers.
In 2016-17, Pelech played 13 games for the Sound Tigers and 44 games for the Islanders. He put up 5 points for Bridgeport and 10 for New York. Mostly unknown, in the first year of a negative 2-year stretch for the Islanders. In 2017, Pelech re-signed with the Isles for four more seasons.
After Doug Weight took over as interim head coach and almost led the Islanders to the playoffs he was hired to be the full-time head coach. Adam Pelech was hated by many Islanders fans and had a rough season, to say the least. He became known for deflecting the puck into his own net. The Islanders defensive scheme struggled, giving up a league high of 296 goals against that season, but things would soon change.
Doug Weight was gone. Lou Lamiorello was hired. Defending Stanley Cup champion winning coach Barry Trotz was brought in to help right the ship, with a completely revamped coaching staff. Structure was here. The Islanders went from giving up the league’s most goals in 2017-18 to the leagues least in 2018-19. 196 goals against instead. Adam Pelech had the most points of his career with 21. He slowly improved as the season went on establishing himself as a shutdown defenseman who’s here to stay.
Pelech’s rise in playmaking and the Islanders’ success led them to a playoff berth in a first round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. Pelech shut down some of the Penguins stars such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel as they could not develop anything offensively. The Isles ended up sweeping the Penguins and moved onto the second round.
The Islanders were looking to build on 2018-19s success this current season. They did that by having a fast start and going on a 17-game point streak early in the 2019-20 season. Pelech began gaining praise as he developed into an elite defender. Him and his D-partner Ryan Pulock quickly became the best defensive tandem on the team earning top minutes on the ice.
Soon after, the season took a turn. With the Islanders set to take on the New Jersey Devils on January 2nd, Adam Pelech suffered a freak injury during warmups. He tore his Achilles tendon and was ruled out for the rest of the season. This was a tough pill to swallow for the Islanders and the fans were devastated as well as in shock. This is when many realized Pelech was an asset. They found themselves struggling to keep a wild-card spot until the season was paused. Adam Pelech’s impact on the Isles was shown from the team’s struggle after his injury. He is set to return to play next season.
Adam Pelech has become a new Isles fan-favorite, after blowing up on social media. His unofficial Instagram fan club, the “Pelech Posse” can be found all over supporting him. After his injury many fans banded together to send him a get well soon card. It’s been a long road of ups and downs, but Adam Pelech has perfectly blossomed into one of the NHL’s best shutdown defenseman.