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Top 25U25: #2 Ryan Pulock can be an elite defenseman

Ryan Pulock seems to have finally grabbed hold of an NHL role and could be poised out for a breakout full NHL season.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New York Islanders
Is this the year Pulock fulfills his potential?
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The past few seasons, Ryan Pulock has bounced up and down from the AHL to the NHL. Every time he was in the NHL, he impressed, but never managed to stick for a permanent role, whether due to his waiver eligibility, injuries, or the Islanders opting to bring in a veteran defenseman rather than trust in the young players in the organization. He finally got his chance this past season, playing in 68 games and scoring 10 goals, 32 points in those games.

Pulock proved that he could handle play in the NHL, excelling offensively and defensively. He led Islanders’ defensemen with a +3.69 CorsiRel, and was one of few bright spots on the blueline this season. With a real defensive system in place next year, it’ll be interesting to see how Pulock is used. He still has work to do to improve his defensive play, but what will be the most crucial for his trajectory is whether he can continue to develop into a real power play weapon and become a key part of the first power play unit. With Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle presumed to be on that first unit, Pulock could really excel if he’s given that opportunity. If he can continue to be a strong offensive contributor and also play well in his own end, he would be the kind of right-handed defenseman every team wants.

For Pulock, it’ll be a question of whether this is his peak game or if he can continue to develop, especially under a new coach who has experience developing young defensemen with offensive upside. If this is his best, he’ll still be a good player for the Islanders, but he could truly become an elite player in the league if he can build his game up even more.



We all love the shot. He showed flashes of dominance last season. I think he's going to be a solid point-producer and PP specialist from the RD, but I think his defense will always be a bit of an issue, which will keep him from becoming a 1st pairing Dman.


Minute-per-minute, Pulock was one of the best defensemen in the NHL last year. He was able to do that with a coach that had the defensive I.Q. of a kumquat. He should be stellar this year - potentially an all-star.


This calendar year Pulock is one of five NHL defensemen with 125+ all-situation SOGs (132). He is third in the stat while playing 100+ fewer minutes than Burns, Hamilton, Josi, and Jones. While Pulock has a cannon from the point, he has also shown the ability to beat goalies on the rush with his wrist shot. That type of versatility is difficult to defend.

Mike B:

If you're an excellent defenseman you tend to get my nod over equally-skilled forwards. If you have an elite shot and are developing strong d-zone skills as well? That is a rare combination. Pulock may finally be that all-situations top-pair RD the Isles have needed practically forever.