There is no doubting Ryan Pulock’s offensive abilities from the back end. His shot from the point is NHL-caliber. As is the case for a lot offensively-minded defensemen coming to the pro ranks, the adjustment for him has been playing more responsibly in the defensive zone.
“Right now, I think he’s starting to find his groove,” Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson said of Pulock. “He’s starting to be more assertive with his puck plays and he’s jumping in the play a lot more.”
Now in his second full season at the AHL level, the New York Islanders first round pick (15th overall) in 2013 has been called up a few times but has yet to make his NHL debut. Pulock tallied 17 goals in the AHL as a rookie last season, but understands that he needs to round out his game and become more of a two-way defender if he wants to make it in pro hockey.
“I have a good shot and my offensive skills are there. It’s just a matter of being reliable in the D-Zone and being able to play a more two-way game,” Pulock said of his challenges he will need to overcome. “I think that’s the biggest thing that’s going to help get me to the next level.”
Pulock is still putting up points this season – five goals and 11 assists through 35 games – but what has been more impressive to his head coach in Bridgeport is the progress he is making in his own end.
“He’s taking steps in the right direction,” Thompson said of Pulock, adding, “he still needs to be here and work on his defensive side of the game, but overall real happy with the progress [he has made]. From the beginning of the year to now, he’s much better than he was in the beginning of the year and I think that’s a credit to him for staying with it. I know he was a little frustrated early on.”
“Basically, you want them to get better every day,” Thompson continued on about the process his players are going through. “Each guy has an individual skill or piece of their game that needs to get better. For Pulock, it’s improving his defensive game and increasing the pace that he plays at. I know that he’s doing both of those things. Each guy has something to work on and give credit to the guys -they’re working on those things.”
Pulock’s play this season hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was named to the Atlantic Division All-Star squad that will take part in the 2016 Toyota AHL All-Star Classic on January 31st and February 1st in Syracuse, NY.
But, despite receiving that accolade, as is the case with any player in the AHL Pulock is hoping to make his NHL debut at some point this season.
“Obviously it would be special,” Pulock said. “[It’s] something you kind of dream about as a kid growing up to play in the NHL and that’s what I am here trying to work towards. Whenever that opportunity comes, it’ll be exciting and hopefully I’ll make the best of it too.”
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