Though it may not last, we are experiencing an interesting chapter in the Rangers-Islanders rivalry with the team’s now being a quick subway ride apart. Most would say the Rangers get the most scrutiny of the two teams, therefore casting a shadow on the Islanders at times. Possessing several quality pieces, one Islander primed for a step up in tier is Nick Leddy. Arguably now the anchor for their blue line with Johnny Boychuk getting older, the 26-year-old defenseman is really coming into his own, and it’s time to take notice. This age tends to be the true breakout year for defenders, as Victor Hedman showed last season, and all signs point to Leddy taking yet another step forward.
Looking at the past four seasons, Leddy has posted campaigns of 31, 37, 40, and 46 points. Not only has there been steady improvement and a rise in ice time and production, but Leddy also received an average of 3:09 power-play minutes per game last season. Additionally, with Travis Hamonic out of the picture, Leddy stands to log even more ice time in 2017-18. Leddy also offers modest upside in the hits and blocked-shots columns.
The big question with Leddy this year is who will be his counterpart now that Hamonic is gone. While still a solid defenseman, Boychuk has taken a step back, as he moves farther from his peak years. Calvin de Haan or Scott Mayfield may be in line for increased roles now. Nonetheless, whoever is lining up alongside Leddy is certainly not going to overshadow him as he is by far the best all-around defender on the team. Leddy’s 46 points last year while seeing a rotation of players at his side tells us he is the straw that stirs the drink.
Minus the cold spell Leddy endured in the second quarter, he was remarkably consistent throughout the season providing solid cross-category production. The entire second half of the season saw him maintain a consistent points-per-game pace. Leddy performed like a 50-point defender the entire second half which only speaks further to the fact that he is ready to take a step up in tier. Leddy has no glaring deficiency to make you hesitant to own him, he really does tilt the scales across all categories. He also is probably underrated in a number fantasy circles.
Leddy is certainly a player to be had at more than fair value in drafts this coming fall. There is reason to believe the Islanders should bounce back from a down year in 2016-17 and return to form. Leddy will play an even larger role in this alongside Tavares, Anders Lee and Eberle. When one thinks of Brooklyn as a whole hockey is certainly far removed from the first thing to cross one’s mind, but as a savvy owner you must not forget about the boys on Atlantic Avenue. Enjoy what may be this season’s Dougie Hamilton breakout in Nick Leddy, some slight gloating will be acceptable.
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