by Ray Kuhn
The New York Islanders are in the midst of a playoff race. As they shoot for home ice advantage and look to ready themselves for the NHL’s annual spring test of endurance, they could use some help along the blue line. So then why has Ryan Pulock been a non-factor?
It is not for lack of pedigree as he was the 15th overall pick in 2013. Prior to being drafted he spent three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, scoring eight goals with 34 assists in 63 games in his first season. He followed that up with 33 goals and 72 assists in 132 games over the next two seasons, leading to the Islanders spending a first round pick on him.
Prior to the draft opinions were all over the place. He was consistently considered a first round pick, he was just projected to go anywhere between five and 30. In the WHL Pulock didn’t have the best supporting cast, and this was said about him leading up to the draft (click here for the article):
“Pulock’s greatest offensive weapon is his bomb from the point, as he possesses probably the hardest slapshot out of any draft-eligible player and isn’t afraid to unload it. He can keep it low to generate rebounds or take it high to find the corner of the net, and despite his age already has the offensive instincts to know when to utilize each one. His passing is also highly impressive, as he can make hard, accurate feeds and usually knows the right places to put them. He’s not the type of defender to go end-to-end with the puck, but he can still effectively navigate his way through traffic.”
While you will find bigger defenseman (he is 6’2 and 215 pounds), Pulock is solid in his own end. However, he is not a physical threat, is still just 21-years old and has some growing and developing to do.
In his two seasons in the AHL Pulock has continued to be an offensive threat, scoring 24 goals and compiling 29 assists in 105 games. Arguing about his offensive skill set and potential is a moot point. However, we must remember that it is not that simple for a young defenseman.
It is clear that he has, and will have, a future in the NHL and with the Islanders though I wouldn’t expect it to be this season. This is what head coach Jack Capuano had to say about his young blue liner (click here for the article):
“He’s had a good attitude,” Capuano said. “He’s improved his game in a lot of areas that we talked about coming out of training camp. Everybody has to play without the puck. He has to play physical, he has to play down low hard. When you get to this level the difference for a defenseman is the ability to play in your own end.”
Next season it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pulock have a vital role with the Islanders, at least on the power play, but don’t look for him to have an impact in 2015-16.
Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect Lists: