EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — It’s been hard to miss Zdeno Chara on the ice at Northwell Health Ice Center over the past three days. Even next to some of the New York Islanders’ bigger players, Chara still towers over them.
However, Chara’s presence has loomed large over training camp for more than just the fact that the 44-year-old stands at 6-foot-9. The hulking defenseman is expected to play a big role on the Islanders on the ice and off of it.
It’s no secret that Zdeno Chara is here in part to help mentor Noah Dobson as he continues to develop his game. The two have been near inseparable during the first three days of training camp and it would appear that, at least to start the season, Chara and Dobson will be attached at the hip.
Chara’s sphere of influence will extend beyond just Dobson. While Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech have quickly established themselves as one of the best defensive pairings in the NHL, there is still an expectation that Chara will help grow their game as well.
“I think what (Pelech) will learn from Zdeno will be some of those intangibles,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Some of the things about players around the league. Probably, when Adam’s mind starts to go a little bit he can refocus it a little bit. Z is a very focused professional athlete and I think that helps you bring calmness to everyone around him. That’s probably some of the things he can benefit from.”
While Pelech has been a strong defensive defenseman, his offense has not seen the same production. Chara and Pelech have some similarities in their game and Chara’s arrival could even help the offensive side of Pelech’s game this season.
The two won’t find themselves paired with each other since they’re both lefties, but there will be plenty of time between practice and in the locker room for Pelech to absorb some of Chara’s knowledge.
“We’re obviously thrilled to have him. He’s a guy that’s been a great player in this league for a long time,” Pelech said. “The qualities that he brings in terms of leadership and experience are huge for use, especially on the back end. He’s a guy that you want on your team.”
Earlier in the week, Trotz indicated that while the Islanders will likely use Zdeno Chara with Noah Dobson early there is the chance he’ll jump around too and see time with Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield. How much and in what situations that will occur are still unknown.
The Islanders open their preseason schedule on Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. The Islanders have not indicated which players will be taking part in, so the debut of Chara and Dobson in game action may come Sunday or it may come Tuesday when the Islanders play the Philadelphia Flyers.