The success and importance of Adam Pelech to the New York Islanders may have surprised some people, but there was one person who wasn’t shocked by it at all.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson helped develop Pelech during his time in the AHL and saw the potential the young defenseman had in him at the time. Thompson was the Sound Tigers coach during the parts of three seasons that Pelech played in the AHL.
“I knew Adam was going to be great NHL player,” Brent Thompson told NYI Hockey Now during a phone interview. “We had comparables that I thought he was going to be a top-four. A great shutdown defenseman plus he has the great vision. Good outlet, good first pass and the great stick in the defensive end. His hockey IQ is off the charts and just a great kid.”
Adam Pelech’s importance to the Islanders quickly became clear after he was sidelined for the remainder of the year with an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in January. The Islanders went 10-13-7 and allowed 3.13 goals per game without him in the lineup.
Pelech had already been given plenty of minutes and responsibility by Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, but it wasn’t until he wasn’t in the lineup did the full scope of his importance come into focus.
The 26-year-old defenseman returned for the Islanders playoff run in August, where he played a pivotal role in the team making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. He averaged 22:26 of ice time in 21 playoff games and was usually facing off against the opposing team’s top players.
Adam Pelech missed Game 6 against Tampa Bay with a broken wrist, which he suffered in Game 5 and played through.
“He was a key piece of our success here the years that we were good,” Thompson said. “Seeing him go and translate it in the NHL, I’m not surprised the level that he can play at. It’s exciting for the Islanders fans to see where he’s at now and how good he’s going to be, and how important he is to that team.”
For the veteran hockey coach, it was early on that Pelech’s talents caught his eye.
Pelech signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Islanders in March of 2014 and played the 2014-15 season with the Sound Tigers. It was halfway through his first year that Pelech’s abilities became apparent to Thompson.
“Just his vision and his hockey sense and his stick. Just the way he defended,” Thompson said. “We were playing top teams in the American League and throwing him out as a rookie against some of the top American League players. He was doing a heck of a job shutting them down with just his defensive reads, physicality and again that stick was dangerous.”
Kieffer Bellows Violated AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program
Kieffer Bellows violated the AHL/PHPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, the AHL announced Friday afternoon.
The announcement did not say when the violation occurred or what substances were used by Bellows that triggered the violation. Bellows had already been disciplined for the issue and there are no further limitations or restrictions that would keep him from playing, the AHL press release stated.
It’s unclear if this had any role in the New York Islanders decision to keep him off their return to play roster in July.
“In response to the American Hockey League announcement regarding Kieffer Bellows, we will let their statement speak for itself and have no further comment,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement.
A Bridgeport Sound Tigers spokesperson said that they did not have any additional comments.
Kieffer Bellows appeared in eight games with the Islanders this season and scored two goals and recorded an assist in that span. In 52 AHL games with Bridgeport, Bellows recorded 22 goals and nine assists for 31 points.
Bellows was part of the Islanders summer training camp in July, but was left off the final roster that went to Toronto to compete for the Stanley Cup.
The 22-year-old was drafted by the Islanders 19th overall at the 2016 NHL Draft.
Sebastian Aho Inks Two-Year Contract Extension with Islanders
The New York Islanders have signed Sebastian Aho to a two-year contract extension.
The new deal will keep the pending restricted free agent in orange and blue through the 2022-23 season. Aho was on the final year of his three-year, entry-level contract that he signed in 2017.
The Athletic’s Arthur Staple was first to report the Aho contract. The second year of the deal is one-way, according to Staple.
Aho has not played in the NHL since a 22 game stint during the 2017-18 season. He recorded a goal and three assists during his time with the Islanders that season.
He was part of the Islanders taxi squad during the playoffs this season and has played well in AHL Bridgeport.
The #Isles re-signed 24 y/o D Sebastian Aho* to 2 year $725K Cap Hit Deal:
Year 1: $700K NHL, $275K minors, $325K Guaranteed
Year 2: $750K NHL
-30P in 49 AHL GP
-Rep'd by Claude Lemieux @4sportshockey
*The other Aho, & yes we know wrong Aho in picturehttps://t.co/q9yNVIB2ob
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) October 5, 2020
Sebastian Aho led all Bridgeport Sound Tigers defensemen in points with 30 points (three goals, 27 assists) in 49 games this season. It was the third consecutive season he has led Bridgeport defenders in points.
In 156 games with the Sound Tigers, Sebastian Aho has 105 points (21 goals, 84 assists) and has been named to the AHL All-Star Classic three seasons in a row.
Wahlstrom, Bellows, Holmstrom Take Big Strides in Development | NYHN+
When it comes to the New York Islanders future, Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and Simon Holmstrom are three pieces that could have a big impact on the team going forward.
All three spent a majority of the 2019-20 season in AHL Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers. Wahlstrom and Bellows both made appearances in the NHL with the Islanders, and Bellows scored his first two career goals in the NHL during an eight-game stint.
And the three each made notable strides during the abbreviated American Hockey League season, according to Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson.
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