On Ryan Pulock’s road to the NHL, there have been a lot of bus trips. In junior, Pulock spent as many as 22 hours on a single ride with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The road trips were a little shorter in the American Hockey League, but with a team-leading eight goals, Pulock has been driving the bus for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Pulock, the Islanders first-round pick in 2013, is tied with Harry Zolnierczyk for the Sound Tigers scoring lead and is second amongst defensemen in the American League with 13 points. His eight goals are tops among AHL rookies and helped earn him his first career callup Friday afternoon.
“Ryan Pulock is a huge asset,” Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson said. “His shot is deadly. It's an Al MacInnis style shot. I've yet to see one harder in this league and even in the NHL, it’s very hard to find a shot this hard.”
Pulock’s booming slap shot has been his trademark since he was drafted by the Islanders 15th overall. The defenseman said he doesn’t have any special technique, just a 117-flex stick, some muscle and a whole lot of practice.
“It’s somewhat natural,” Pulock said. “Growing up in a small town (Dauphin, Manitoba), I had access to the rink a lot. Whenever I was bored, I’d go to the rink and I’m a bit of a rink rat. I was on the ice a lot, spending a lot of the day shooting pucks nonstop.”
The power earned Pulock 64 goals over a four-year career in junior hockey. In Bridgeport he worked on getting the clapper off quicker, as even a 100 mph shot can be rendered useless when it finds a shin pad.
His shot is deadly. It's an Al MacInnis style shot. I've yet to see one harder in this league and even in the NHL. - Brent Thompson
“Guys get into lanes so quickly that you have to get it off quick or make a deceptive play and get it to the net,” Pulock said. “That’s something I am going to continue to work on. If I can do that and get more off then it’s going to open up a lot of chances, especially on the power play.”
The depth on the Islanders back end kept Pulock and other talented defensive prospects in Bridgeport, but the easy-going defenseman embraced an extra year to marinate in the minors. He’s been learning the ins and outs of the professional game from veteran defenseman and Sound Tigers captain Aaron Ness; the two have played together on the team’s top pairing for most of this season.
“What Aaron Ness helps Ryan Pulock with is the pace and realizing that he has to be more assertive with puck plays, closing time and space in the defensive zone,” Thompson said. “And Aaron Ness is such a smart hockey player. When you get to play with that guy and be with that guy day in and day out, a little bit of that rubs off on Ryan."
Ness has seen Pulock develop alongside him and sees a bright future for the Islanders pick.
“He's been real good. Real sturdy, real solid,” Ness said. “Just his total game has gotten better. Pro hockey is a different step and I think he's making a step in the right direction.”
Pulock was trending upward during the Islanders training camp, scoring during the preseason win at Barclays Center on Sept. 26, but an untimely injury prevented him from making the team. The Islanders coaching staff were impressed, but wanted to see him grow his game in Bridgeport. Judging by Friday’s call up, he has.
For Pulock, the call up is an opportunity to put the bus trips behind him for good.