It wasn't so long ago that the Islanders' defense depth chart was so thin they were signing players off the street -- or at least off of amateur squads. Injuries and a lack of prospects left the Isles at the end of the 2010-11 season needing bodies to give them six or seven defensemen to finish out the year.
Things have changed. As this week's prospect camp drew to a close Friday, the Islanders have not only their last two first-round picks, Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart, in the junior pipeline, but a couple of promising defensemen will come to training camp in September ready for their first full pro seasons.
Scott Mayfield and Andrey Pedan, the second and third-round picks in the 2011 draft, both got a taste of the pro life in the final two weeks of last season with Bridgeport. They'll be jockeying for position in Isles training camp with another batch of young defensemen, including Matt Donovan, who led the AHL in points for defensemen with 48 last season, and 2009 first-rounder Calvin de Haan, battling to come back from a season lost to shoulder surgery.
"There's a lot of good young defensemen in this organization now, and that's a good thing," Mayfield said after the Blue-Orange prospect scrimmage on Thursday night. "I think about [trying to make the Isles] every single day. That's where I want to be, so this summer is big for me."
Mayfield and Pedan, who played as a defense pair for the Blue team -- coached by Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin, who'll almost certainly have both young defensemen on his squad to start next season -- are in the mold of what GM Garth Snow has been adding over the last couple seasons.
They're big and both have a bit of a nasty streak. Mayfield, who spent two seasons at the University of Denver, is 6-4, 205 pounds; Pedan, who played three seasons for Guelph of the Ontario League, is 6-4, 211.
"My goal is just to keep working on my conditioning, on getting stronger," Pedan said. "I want to make sure I do the most with my opportunity when I get it."
There is also no rush for any of these prospects. Snow added Brian Strait and Thomas Hickey on waivers at the start of the shortened season, and both figure in the team's defense plans going forward. Donovan has the inside track on the vacated spot left by Mark Streit, but the competition could be strong.
"When everybody is battling for a couple spots, it's good for the whole team," Pedan said.
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