If you skimmed by our link to the Connecticut Post article about Ryan Pulock's All-Star game-depriving injury not being serious, you missed some informative details about what, exactly, the Isles have had Pulock working on during an AHL apprenticeship that cannot end soon enough for many Islanders fans.
Though fans and even some media clamor for a Pulock recall ASAP -- particularly on days where "Strait's in" is part of the morning skate reports -- it's not like an NHL team keeps a young prospect in the AHL just to piss you off and elicit another round of "[coach/GM/scouts/whoever you blame] is an idiot" laments.
So wherever a fan falls on the matter -- and it's a safe bet most haven't seen much of Pulock's actual play -- Michael Fornabaio's reporting in the Post throughout Pulock's AHL career has been informative since Pulock has yet to make his NHL debut despite a couple of brief recalls.
In particular, Thursday's story about the (since healed) pre-All-Star injury had a lot more from the defenseman and from coach Brent Thompson, the former Isles NHL assistant who has been charged with developing blueliners like Pulock, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield down in Bridgeport:
Pulock took on some new responsibilities over the past month, more ice time and particularly more penalty-kill time, and he has thrived.
"Ryan Pulock is taking huge steps right now," coach Brent Thompson said. "At the beginning of the year, he was getting his feet underneath him, getting the pace back. Right now, he’s playing with pace. He’s assertive. He’s moving the puck."
Thompson said Pulock has been getting his shot off better, and he’s not just talking about the ginormous slapper that devastated the AHL last year.
"He still needs to work on staying low," Thompson said. "He can’t lose that D-side positioning."
There's more in that story on his mobility and on Pulock's view of how he's improved, which continues some themes Fornabaio reported on back in December:
“I think, to be honest, I feel more comfortable (defensively),” Pulock said.
“I think now I just have to ... focus on being aggressive, physical, and when I can do that, eliminate guys, it helps me beat guys moving up the ice offensively.”
“I just think in general his game is more assertive, especially coming back from Christmas break,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “He’s got a better pace to his game. He’s moving his feet more.”
It’s a crucial thing for Pulock, Thompson said, playing with that pace.
“That’s the difference in his game right now,” Thompson said. “You maintain D-side positioning by moving your feet.”
By all accounts Pulock, who turned 21 in October and is in his second AHL season, is destined for the NHL and should have a long career there. Even moreso than Pelech and Mayfield, each of whom have seen NHL action this season, Pulock is seen as basically a sure thing.
Whether the Isles are being too careful with him, or being appropriately deliberate with a right-sider who will essentially need to fill the void once a new home for Travis Hamonic is found, it sounds like there are specific things they continue to want Pulock to master before he hits the ground running in the NHL.