Nick Leddy is a defensive stalwart
When you think about New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy, the first thing that jumps to mind is likely that he’s a beautiful skater, one of those guys that can go from standing still to full speed in the blink of an eye, and somehow skates as well backwards as he does forward. Leddy’s mobility is easily his biggest strength as a hockey player.
Mobile, puck-moving defensemen have become the most sought after archetype in the NHL after the big, franchise centre, though for a long time players like Leddy were much easier to acquire.
The Chicago Blackhawks for example, never really fully trusted Leddy to be a big player on their roster, and after winning two Stanley Cups in the last three years, it’s tough to question them, until you look at the impact Leddy had in Long Island last year.
Some may bristle at the idea of Leddy being a game changer defensively, he’s not a big body that crushes guys or clears the front of the net, but the fact is, Leddy gets results.
Defensive plays per 20 minutes played
Possession driving plays in this instance include three things, outlet passes, stretch passes, and controlled zone exits, and per 20 minutes played at even strength, Leddy completes the fourth most of them in the NHL among defensemen. Overall though, Leddy is involved in fewer plays with and for the puck in the defensive zone than the average defenseman. What does that mean?
Essentially, Leddy spends less time in the defensive zone than the average player, yet a large percentage of his plays in the defensive zone are successful attempts to move the puck forward and exit the zone possession. How does that stack up to his peers?
One of the reasons Leddy may not have been as trusted in Chicago as he should have been, is that he does genuinely struggle to get the puck in the defensive zone. He makes more plays to get the puck away from the opposition than the average defenseman versus the number of plays he makes with the puck, which to many coaches is a huge negative. Contrary to what many fans believe, coaches don’t distrust players for no reason. Unfortunately though, sometimes coaches focus on the wrong thing.
No defenseman in the NHL has a higher percentage of their defensive zone plays result in successful possession driving plays, with Leddy rocking a ridiculous 49% of all his attempted plays in the defensive zone ending up with the puck driving forward and clearing the zone.
While Leddy may struggle to get the puck in the defensive zone, he’s so remarkably efficient when he does get it, that he ends up being one of the most effective defenders in the entire league, pacing the Islanders to 5.55 fewer shot attempts against every 60 minutes played versus when he’s off the ice, according to Hockey Analysis.
As our understanding of the intricacies of hockey continues to expand, we keep finding these areas where conventional wisdom fails, but none has been as big of a difference maker as the rise of the puck-moving defenseman, and Leddy is a great poster boy for it.
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