Big Year Ahead for Ryan Pulock

Following their unexpected return to the playoffs after the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, the Isles found themselves in unfamiliar terratory having a draft pick outside of the top 10. Holding the 15th overall selection, General Manager Garth Snow selected offensively gifted defenseman Ryan Pulock of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings. 

In 4 years with Brandon, Pulock totaled 64 goals and 146 assists for 210 points over 261 games. His best year came this past season where he amassed 23 goals and 40 assists for 63 points. Known for his power play abilities and booming slap shot, Pulock has clearly never been afraid to shoot the puck. 

Although they have completely different styles of play, Pulock isn't the top tier prospect then the likes of Griffin Reinhart, who figures to crack the Islanders lineup out of training camp. With all things considered, Pulock will almost certainly spend the upcoming season getting acclimated to the professional game with Bridgeport which is why it may be the most import year for him to date. How he developes and transitions from Juniors will have a reverberating effect on his career for years to come. 

Pulock has a lot going for him entering his first full professional season. For the first time in at least a handful of years, the Sound Tigers look to have a deep and competitive lineup. With the home grown Isles talent another year older and NHL/AHL depth signings of Jack Skille, Harry Zolnierczyk, Kael Mouillerat and David Leggio, Bridgeport should be one of the better teams in the league. Simply playing in the AHL will help on its own, but learning how to win will be even more beneficial for the young defenseman.

On defense, Pulock will have a lot of support as well. Players like Matt Donovan, Scott Mayfield, Andrey Pedan, Aaron Ness, Kevin Czuczman and potentially Ville Pokka are talented and have varying experience which will provide ample support for Pulock.

Additionally, former Islanders assistant coach Brent Thompson has been named the coach of the Sound Tigers once again. Thompson has always been touted for his success in developing young players. As you can see, all of the necessary tools are in place to get Pulock to where he needs to be to become a key contributor in the NHL.

Looking at the Islanders defensive corps going into this season, my guess is that pairings will look something like this;

Hamonic - de Haan
Visnovsky - Hickey
Reinhart - Brennan

Extras
Carkner, Strait

As it stands, the only one who is an established offensive threat and reliable on the power play is Visnovsky. Visnovsky has well documented injury issues and has an expiring contract at the end of the year. TJ Brennan opened a lot of eyes as the AHL's top defenseman last year but hasn't yet done it in the NHL. Hickey contributes with a lot of helpers but isn't a goal scoring threat or a power play type defenseman. Calvin de Haan has the ability to fill the role but his shoulder injuries are something that needs to be in the back of everyones mind. 

This means that Pulock could very well be relied on as the top offensive threat and power play specialist as early as next season. If that is the case and no other defenseman has been acquired to help in this area, Pulock will need to be ready. I don't just mean ready to play in the NHL, but he must also be able to shoulder a lot of responsibility and play a lot of minutes.

The hype at the moment is all around Reinhart and deservedly so, the fan base has been waiting for his arrival having watched him succeed in Juniors ever since he was drafted in 2012. However, my opinion is that depending on how things go down over the next 12 months, Pulock may be the more important piece to the Islanders and their success.

Bryan Curran
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