Called up part way through the year, Devon Toews took a major step in his development with the New York Islanders last season. After playing 24 games with Bridgeport in which he had 19 points, Toews scored 18 points and was a plus-seven in 48 games with the Islanders to end the year.
Despite this, Toews averaged just 16:03 at even strength per game this year, the lowest of any of New York’s seven defensemen on their roster. He did play on the power play though and the fact that he leapfrogged Scott Mayfield and Johnny Boychuk in postseason TOI/GP points toward an increased role for the upcoming season.
Toews is one of New York’s most reliable blue liners– he’s excellent at preventing zone entries and isn’t usually a culprit of bad turnovers. On top of that, he’s able to provide offense as well and is a lock to play on the power play again next season. He played well in the playoffs, contributing five points in eight games and though at 25 years old he’s on the older end of the scale for players just having entered the NHL, he certainly projects as a top-four defenseman.
With the current situation of the Islanders’ defense corps though, there’s a bit of a jam potentially preventing Toews from getting the time he should. Nick Leddy is likely to hit 21+ minutes per game again and with Adam Pelech becoming such a workhorse on the back end (not to mention Thomas Hickey remaining on the roster), Toews may not see a huge increase in playing time.
With Ryan Pulock becoming the number one defenseman in New York, plus Johnny Boychuk, Scott Mayfield and possibly even Noah Dobson on the roster as well, it’s not like Toews can be moved to play on the right side in a long-term capacity either. Should Leddy actually end up getting moved it solves the problem but as of now, Toews may be a bit trapped under the likes of Leddy and Pelech on the back end.
It’s easy to forget that Toews still hasn’t played a full NHL season, based on the way he performed upon joining the Islanders. But it’s crucial for his development that he’s able to get more ice time in order to establish himself as a true top-four defenseman.