Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
St. Louis-born Scott Mayfield, a 6-foot-4, 227-pound defenseman, made an early career in the minor leagues, playing for the Islanders' AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Since 2013-14, when he was 21 years old, it was an early exit from training camp with the main squad to return to Connecticut for another year of riding the buses of the feeder league.
At the beginning of last season, Mayfield had racked up 194 games for the Tigers and only 11 at the NHL level, filling in when injuries called for an extra body to be recalled and made part of the 20-man roster. After being sent back once again, he was recalled and appeared in a career-high 25 games with New York, putting up very respectable numbers with nine points on two goals while averaging 14 minutes of ice time. This year, after paying his dues, the time has come.
"It's definitely nice that the coaching staff has shown faith in me," he said after the Islanders' 5-3 win over Arizona at Barclays Center. "I came in with specific goals this year and one was to play, make the roster. I hadn't made it out of camp yet and it's my fifth year pro. I wanted to be on this team full-time. My second goal was to be in the lineup opening night and I wasn't, so I said when they put me in, don't let them take you out. I'm focused on what I can do - chip in offensively, be physical, block shots, whatever they need. Making sure I work hard every single day."
Mayfield's early reviews have been stellar. Ice time is up, he's showing a knack for when to pinch and has 14 hits through his seven games. Last night, he became the first Islanders defenseman to score a goal in the 2017-18 season, something that you certainly would not have bet on in the pre-season. He has a respectable 50 percent 5v5 Corsi rating with 60.6 percent of his zone starts beginning in the defensive end.
"It's weird. I don't think anyone would have guessed I'd be leading in goals," Mayfield said with a laugh. "It's something we need to add to our team game. Last year, you saw it more, jumping up in the play and that's the way the league is today. It's a five-man attack."
In training camp and preseason, it was Ryan Pulock drawing all the attention for his potent shot and offensive potential but Mayfield snuck in and simply outplayed him, especially in the defensive end, where development is crucial to finding a regular spot as part of a top-six rotation in the National Hockey League. He has shown improvement across the board, from skating and agility to positioning to finding a knack for getting an underrated shot through to the net.
Head coach Doug Weight continued heaping praise on Mayfield. "His shot is sneaky, it's heavy. He does a good job of generating, getting down the wall and activating. Since the middle of last year, he's really played on his toes and he has the game to do it. He has good instincts getting into the play at both ends."
Last night, the Islanders were outplayed by a winless Coyotes team full of young, hungry forwards looking to impress their own head coach, Rick Tocchet. They out-attempted the home team 64-49, outshooting them 35-25. When asked afterwards if it showed the Islanders character to win a "sloppy" game, Mayfield responded with honesty, even about his own mistake.
"I don't know if it was the sloppiest game out of all of em. I don't know if you can say a win is sloppy, necessarily," he said. "A win is a win. It's two points we needed badly. I don't think the first period is what we wanted. But when we're up with a lead, we gotta learn to play with that. We're expected to be winning games and we need to make sure we play the right way. We did let them back in it with poor puck plays. I was out there for a goal where I missed the guy in front, need to be stronger on my stick. It's a tip-in goal, I need to make sure I clear him out so Jaro [Halak] can see. We can take a lot away from this game, for sure."
Mayfield was known for his flowing locks the last couple of years, making himself very noticeable on picture day. This year, he cut it down for charity, and some in the room have proclaimed that the reason for his improved play.
"I don't know about that," Mayfield said while laughing. "That's what some people are saying but I think it (the flowing hair) was my cape. I might have lost a step, actually."