The NY Islanders enter the upcoming season as a team trying to get back to contender status. For that to happen several things must come into place. One of which is for Ryan Pulock to have a big bounce-back season.
The Islanders rely on both Pulock and Adam Pelech heavily as their number one defense pairing. Every game they are paired up against the opposition's top line. Not only do they need Pulock and Pelech to shut down the opponent's most dangerous scorers but to add some offense as well.
Pulock is in the prime of his career turning 28 at the beginning of October. Quietly, Pulock has become a first-pairing blue liner, as he does everything well. He has size (6'2, 215 .lbs) and skill and was one of Garth Snow's best draft picks during his tenure.
More recently, Pulock's two-way game has been recognized more for what he does on his own end of the ice, however, it wasn't long ago the Grandview, Canada native produced well on the scoresheet. His booming shot from the blue line is a weapon he'll need to utilize more. Last season, Pulock started to show the offensive ability a little more after a dreadful 2020-21 season where his shooting percentage was a lowly 1.7%.
In fact, an injury that lingered longer than anticipated hindered Pulock from being even better last season. He missed 28 games due to injury (roughly 1/3 of the season) and it took him several games when he came back to playing to his standards. His final numbers of 5 goals, 21 points, and a zero in terms of plus-minus are far below both his and the team's expectations.
There is no reason to think that a healthy Pulock can't produce 10 goals and 40 points in the 2022-23 season. Noah Dobson will surely continue to man the blue line on the first unit power play, however, the second unit isn't as definite and Pulock is a prime candidate to QB the second unit. His heavy shot from the point should translate to more success on the man advantage so long as he hits the net. Another candidate for
He may not get the praise that many others do but make no mistake, Pulock is a first-pairing defender. This is the season he could put his name in the conversation among the other top defenseman in the league maintaining his strong defensive play while contributing on offense more often.
When you look at the Islanders' depth on defense, you realize how much they need Pulock to be a stalwart for them at both ends of the ice. Pulock has already proven that when healthy he is that player. That's why it was a no-brainer when Lou Lamoriello locked up Pulock to an eight-year extension last summer.
A well rested and healthy Pulock is primed for a big season. After scoring 10 goals and 35-plus points twice with a nine-goal, 37-point season in between, returning to form in 2022-23 seems plausible with the obstacles from 2021-22 no longer in his way and a clean bill of health.