Ryan Pulock is far from a household name, but he was sort of a big deal on Thursday night when he made his season debut in the New York Islanders’ cross-town rivalry game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Prior to the puck drop, Islanders head coach Doug Weight confirmed that Pulock was going to play and Jaroslav Halak would be the starting goaltender.
Pulock began his hockey career with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. The 23-year-old right-handed defenseman matriculated to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, where he notched 39 goals – 22 on the power play – in three seasons. He then traveled to Brooklyn to play for the Islanders after signing a three-year, $4.275 million contract.
However, his professional career hasn’t always been smooth sailing as he only played 15 games during the 2015-16 season and one game in the 2016-17 season. He certainly got a couple of chances to prove himself, but Thursday’s opportunity was specifically for a more permanent spot in the Isles’ lineup.
Pulock addressed the local media, saying, “It’s exciting. Now’s my chance & I’m just looking to go in there & get pucks on net & use my shot, obviously that’s a big part of my game.”
The Isles entered Rangers territory with a dreadful 0-for-20 record on the power play. They finally ended that zip record as Pulock deflected a pass to Anders Lee, who jammed the shot into the net for a power-play goal, just 2:40 into the opening period. Pulock collected his first point (assist) of the season on Lee’s third goal of the season.
Pulock was a notable member of the Isles’ top power play group, which consisted of Lee, John Tavares, Nick Leddy, and Jordan Eberle. He might not be the immediate answer to the team’s power play woes, but his moment was definitely one to remember. He provided a much-needed spark to the lackluster power play.
Weight told NHL.com, “There needs to be changes, whether it’s personnel, some structure and they have to have a freshness…We’re starting anew. We could have won some games and we have to start contributing and we gave them some good structure today and some new looks and some new things that will fit our team better.”
Pulock isn’t an elite defenseman, but at least he did a couple of good things in his season debut. Weight made the right decision of putting him in Thursday’s lineup as an extra defenseman to balance out the 11 forwards. In general, he did more than tread water this time around. He actually showed fans of both teams his defensive and offense skills.
Pulock was a perfect six-for-six on the season…in being scratched from the Isles games. Those aren’t the types of numbers that a defenseman – or any player – wants to put on display. It’s hard to imagine him in that position after he played in six of 11 postseason games for the Isles in the 2015-16 season, but it’s true as he followed up with a one-game stint with the big club in the 2016-17 season.
Pulock made his season debut, but he requires extra coaching when it comes to improving his defensive plays. He has a monster shot, yet, he can’t play very well in his own zone. He’s not a tremendous skater with tons of talent. He also missed the net a couple of times.
Up Next for the Isles
The Isles return to the Barclays Center to host the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, October 21 and the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, October 24.