The New York Islanders added several pieces to their young core Sunday, headlined by offensive-minded defenseman Ryan Pulock, selected with the 15th overall pick in the first round.
Pulock, a native of Grandview, Manitoba, played the last three years with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, captaining the squad in 2012-13. The blueliner has combined for 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) over the last two seasons, and the Islanders hope that offensive talent will translate to the NHL someday.
“He’s a good, young defenseman,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said. “He can create offense. He plays the game the right way. He plays hard in front of his net. He has an offensive flair. We think he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Pulock carries a booming slap shot that was clocked as high as 101 mph at the Wheat Kings’ 2012-13 skills competition. Drafted to his junior club as a center, he converted to defense at age 15 while playing Midget AAA hockey in Manitoba. The 18-year-old Pulock has always had offensive instincts, but says that in 2012-13, he became a better all-around player.
“I love playing in the offensive zone, but my defensive play has come a long way as well,” Pulock said. “I hope I can really help out on the Island.”
After the Islanders selected seven defensemen last year, many of whom are big, hulking, defensive-oriented players, Islanders Head Amateur Scout Trent Klatt says Pulock’s skill set balances some of the players already in the system.
“He was the best player available and we didn’t feel like we could let him pass,” said Islanders Head Amateur Scout Trent Klatt. “He’s a quality individual, quality hockey player, and he’s going to be a good fit for us. He’s got an absolute cannon for a slap shot. He knows his way around the offensive zone and he complements some of the guys we got last year. I’m not sure you can have enough good defensemen.”
For the 18-year-old Pulock, Sunday’s draft was a big step toward his goal of playing in the National Hockey League.
“It’s been crazy. Obviously this is a dream come true for me. I’m super-thrilled to be picked by the Islanders. Obviously, this is a club that has made a lot of steps in the past few years and they’re a contending team now. I’m really looking forward to the future and hopefully playing there really soon and helping out as much as possible.”
While New York may be a ways from Brandon, Manitoba, where Pulock has lived for the past three years, the defenseman says the Islanders have always been close to his family, especially to his father.
“I’m sure my dad is smiling ear to ear, just like me,” Pulock said. “All his life, he’s been an Islanders fan.”
The 6’0, 211-pound defenseman will don an Islanders sweater again next week when the Islanders open their annual mini-camp. It will mark Pulock’s first-ever trip to Long Island.
“I haven’t been there before,” Pulock said. “I’m really excited to get there and meet everyone there, and hopefully play one day there on the island. It’s definitely going to be an adjustment, but obviously I’m willing to make that adjustment. My goal is to play for this team in the NHL. I look forward to starting that process right now.”