The Pivotal Role Kyle MacLean Played For Islanders This Season

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has some difficult decisions to make this summer. But signing Kyle MacLean to an extension was not one of them.

The undrafted forward, who spent over three seasons playing in Bridgeport, got an opportunity on the NHL roster when Casey Cizikas went down, making his NHL debut on Jan. 19, Lane Lambert's last game behind the Islanders' bench.

After scoring his first career NHL goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 5, MacLean was sent down, but there was no question he'd find his way back at some point.

"I think he has a future with us. No doubt in my mind," Roy said after the forward made his way back to Bridgeport. "I mean, it'll be up to the organization to decide when he's ready or not. But I think he does have a future with our team.

"He played really well. I felt like he was very reliable. I mean, he played really well defensively. I guess there's no better feeling than leaving with a goal in your back pocket. I think it brings a lot of confidence to your game, and I'm sure he's going to Bridgeport with other good things in his mind."

Roy was correct, as MacLean was recalled for a game against the St. Blues on an emergency recall with Cizikas hurt again and was sent down for a game with Cizikas ready before he was back up with the big club on Feb. 26.

"He's done a solid job [filling the Cizikas role]," Cal Clutterbuck told The Hockey News. "He's a really good, really good player. I think the lesson for a lot of young kids out there is if you're not going to be the Mat Barzals of the world, you want to play the game properly and hard, and you'll find a place for sure."

And on the NHL roster, he stayed, which allowed Roy to try new things with his lines.

the pivotal role kyle maclean played for islanders this season

Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

First, Brock Nelson was moved from the second-line center position to the top line alongside Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal.

It was a threesome that played an integral in the Islanders' six-game winning streak from Feb. 26 to March 10.

But, when the losses started to pile up, with the Islanders counteracting their six-game winning streak with a six-game losing streak, Roy tried different things, ultimately settling for Cizikas on the wing with Horvat and Barzal.

With that as the top line, the Islanders went 8-0-1 to end the season, getting into the playoffs as the third seed, with MacLean scoring the final goal in their 4-1 playoff-clinching win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 82:

Roy had a lot of decisions to make when he took the job on Jan. 20 but keeping MacLean in the lineup was an easy one.

And the ONLY reason Roy was able to go with that lineup configuration that he settled with after trials and errors was because of the trust he had in MacLean to be a strong defensive forward.

"He's stepped up in a big way and has done a lot of great things, not only offensively but defensively," Horvat said. He's playing hard and finishing his checks, and he's kind of been all around, an up-and-down forward who fits in really nicely with the way Clutterbuck and Martin play, too.

"He's been great for us."

the pivotal role kyle maclean played for islanders this season

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

In 32 regular season games for New York, MacLean had four goals and five assists, averaging 10:05 minutes per game and winning 42.5 percent of his draws.

When the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline came and went, and the Islanders stood pat, The Hockey News asked Lamoriello how much of an impact MacLean played in his plans:

The Islanders would need MacLean to continue to play his brand in the playoffs as the Islanders geared up for a rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes, who had knocked them out of the first round in 2023 after six games.

Unfortunately for New York, they fell in five games this go-around. But MacLean shined, arguably being the team's best player.

He had a goal, scoring in Game 1, adding five blocks, seven hits, and a fight, dropping the gloves to fight Stefan Noesen in Game 2:

During the 2022-23 season, the Islanders saw Hudson Fasching, a career AHLer, take an opportunity and run with it.

He became a spark plug who played a vital role in New York's making the playoffs, which earned him a two-year extension.

MacLean was this year's Hudson Fasching.

"You love to see that," Fasching said about MacLean getting a chance this season. "That was kind of me last year, so I understand how that situation is and how hard it is to get there.

"So I'm really thrilled for him. He's definitely earned it. He's played hard, and he's been a great addition to our team."

As for where MacLean suits up in the Islanders' 2024-25 lineup, his ability to play either center or wing up makes him a tremendous asset for Roy and is likely to be a starter.

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