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.”