The New York Islanders’ defense has been one of the best in the league this season and because of it, they are third in a stacked Metropolitan Division. Since head coach Barry Trotz joined the team in May 2018, defense has been the no. 1 priority and some players have thrived off of that. One of them is Ryan Pulock.
The Islanders drafted Pulock 15th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The former Brandon Wheat King captain showed both offensive and defensive promise in the Western Hockey League. He tallied 45 points in 61 games in his draft year and 63 points in 66 games the following season. He instantly became one of New York’s best defensive prospects.
Since being drafted, he’s played a top-four role and thrived, hitting back-to-back 30-plus-point seasons and he’s on track to hit that number again. He’s also reliable defensively and has a 105 mph shot that makes him a threat at any moment.
Growth and Development
Pulock was strong at the junior level, but when he turned pro at the end of the 2013-14 season he didn’t go straight to the NHL. Islanders management took their time with Pulock, especially because in the previous draft they selected Griffin Reinhart fourth overall and he didn’t pan out. He was later traded to the Edmonton Oilers for two picks which gave Pulock breathing room and time to develop.
In his first season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, Pulock had 29 points in 54 games. He had a whopping 17 goals as a rookie, which is still the single-season record for goals scored by a Sound Tigers defenseman.
On July 8, 2015, the Islanders held a blue & white scrimmage showcasing the young talent within the organization. There was a skills competition that included the hardest shot where Pulock stole the show. The young defenseman lasered a 105 mph slap shot to the back of the net leaving fans in awe.
After spending three seasons in Bridgeport, with short call-ups to the NHL, Pulock was ready for the big time. He scored his first NHL goal against the Nashville Predators during one of those call-ups in 2015-16 and he notched his first career playoff goal in the series against the Florida Panthers in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You guessed it, the goal against the Panthers was a rocket one-timer.
Here to Stay
In 2017-18, Pulock made the team out of preseason camp and played 68 games in his rookie year, tallying 32 points and 10 goals. His blistering slap shot and one-timer make him a viable option to shoot the puck any time he’s on the ice. Also, if he shoots and misses the net, there can still be a scoring opportunity off the rebound due to the heavy shot.
It seems like just the other day he scored his first NHL goal, but now Pulock is just three away from hitting 100 career points. The Dauphin, Manitoba native is on pace for his best season and he’s expected to eclipse 37 points, his career-high from last season.
At this pace, he is also expected to have more blocked shots than his previous career high of 148 from last season, and he’s had an uptick in ice time. His possession metrics are a bit low, according to hockey-reference.com, and he’s starting more shifts in the defensive zone.
Pulock is still as he came advertised at the 2013 NHL Draft. He has captivating offensive talent while remaining defensively responsible. The best part is that he is doing it at a high-rate, taking on over 22 minutes a night, the most among Islanders skaters. Pulock has slowly become the Islanders’ best all-around defenseman.