It wasn't a lost 2021-22 season for NY Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock, but it was one where he struggled to find his offensive game. After taking a step back offensively in 2021, Pulock's game took a step sideways in a year where he suffered an injury and didn't always find himself on the same familiar defensive pairing with Adam Pelech.
The Islanders' season veered widely off-track following a COVID-19 outbreak on the roster, but that also coincided with the loss of Pulock who was injured on Nov. 25 vs. the Lightning. The original prognosis for the lower-body injury was 4-6 weeks, but it would be 25 games before the right-handed defenseman would return to the lineup.
Pulock needs to be better offensively for the NY Islanders in 2022-23
After leading the team in ice time (21:07) the three prior seasons, the 27-year-old signed an eight-year extension with an AAV of $6.15 million in October. Together with Pelech, who signed his own eight year extension last August, the two formed one of the most formidable defense pairs in the league tasked with taking on the opposing top line each night.
High offensive production from Pulock is not a must for him to have a great season, that is how reliable he's been defensively. 2021 was arguably his best season as a professional and he put up just 17 points in 56 games - with only one point (an assist) coming on the PP all-season.
Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, his HDGF% (Percentage of total Goals off of High Danger Scoring Chances) was 59.27, the second best mark of his career behind only 2021's 68.75, a year where he allowed just 15 HDGA (High Danger Goals Against). Last season, that number jumped slightly to 19 in the same 56 games total.
Pulock's heavy shot has always made him a dangerous offensive weapon. He scored 11 power-play goals and 29 overall from 2017 - 2020 before a frustrating 2021 that saw him covert on only 1.7% of his Shots on Goal (SOG). After scoring two goals in 56 games that year, he didn't find the net until Mar. 1 in Colorado, his 25th game of the season, finishing with five goals on the season. He did score four goals in 19 playoff games in 2021, but that pace didn't carry over into the next season.
Regardless of whether Nazem Kadri signs or not, the Islanders will need more offense from their blue line in 2022-23. Next to Noah Dobson, Pulock is the most likely to deliver offensively. Dobson finished 16th amongst defensemen in scoring with 51 points (13G, 38A). The next Islander found on the list was Pelech (3G, 25) at 72nd, and Pulock finished 100th.
Unlike Pelech who has shown glimpses of offensive prowess, Pulock has done it before. The Islanders will need him to find more balance in his overall game this season and recapture some of the offensive ability we've seen in the not-so-distant past.