Barry Trotz wanted New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock to be the team’s number one blueliner. And by the end of the season, that’s exactly what he became.
When the New York Islanders drafted 15th overall in 2013, big things were expected of Ryan Pulock when he’d eventually make the NHL. Now in his second full NHL season, he stepped up and fulfilled those expectations.
It feels like it took Ryan Pulock some time to get to the NHL, but he’s been ready for some time now. If not for a broken foot in his first game after being called up in 2016-17 he’d be in year three of his NHL career.
Barry Trotz wanted Pulock to step up and be the Islanders top defender, and that’s exactly what he did.
Arthur Staple reported (subscription required) that at the start of the season, Barry Trotz met with Ryan Pulock to issue him that challenge to be the team’s number one guy on the blueline. And Trotz gave him some clear inspiration: Shea Weber.
"Barry Trotz met with Pulock near their shared hometown of Dauphin, Manitoba last summer, and from there Trotz made it clear that Pulock was going to be to this Isles team what Shea Weber was to Trotz’s Predators teams of the late-2000s."
Pulock might not ever be the “man-mountain” that Weber is (and was). Weber has two inches and 12 pounds on Pulock. But both can be physical, both are great on the power play, and both have an absolute cannon slap shot.
The 2018-19 season started out slowly. The points just weren’t coming for Pulock. In his first 20 games, Pulock scored six points. The Isles were winning, so who cares. Pulock was learning a new defensive system under Trotz.
The production wasn’t there, but Pulock was out there logging big minutes for the Islanders across all situations. As a number one D does.
Pulock averaged 18:43 at even strength, 1:53 on the power play, and 1:46 on the penalty kill across the full season.
But as Pulock started growing comfortable in his new role and in the new system he found ways to generate offense. His production over this first 20 games had him on pace for 25 in a full 82 game season. He ended the season with 37 points and as the Isles top scorer from the blueline.
Pulock’s one big downfall this season was that cannon-shot. Sure he can fire it over 100 mph towards the net, but his shot was wildly inaccurate. Countless opportunities were missed during the season simply because Pulock couldn’t keep his shot on net.
To be fair, he got better as the season went on. He was hitting the net more often. It seems he’s sacrificed a bit of that Pulock-punch for a shade of accuracy.
Pulock absolutely deserves an A. He was asked to step into a number one role for the New York Islanders in the offseason and he met the expectations from the team head on.
He’s still got some aspects of his game that need work (namely accuracy). But largely his game needs little change going into 2019-20. Again, he’ll be Barry’s number one guy and I can’t wait to see Pulock take a big step forward next season.