Fans Should Be Patient With Ryan Pulock

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Ryan Pulock

It has only been two games, but Islanders fans have got Pulock-palooza. Ryan Pulock, the 21-year-old defenseman blessed with a 105-MPH slapshot, has impressed in his roughly 30-minutes of NHL ice-time so far. However, despite the insipiring impression he’s left with Islanders’ fans, it would behoove them to temper their expectations of the debutante.

It’s important to remember that, regardless of their draft slots, defensemen generally take longer than forwards to develop and cultivate their talents. Victor Hedman, taken one spot behind John Tavares in the 2009 draft, has only emerged as a front-line defender in the past year, a full six seasons after making his debut. Though injuries have stunted his development, Ryan Murray, taken second overall in the 2012 draft, is still trying to live up to the lofty expectations which landed him a spot on the 2012 Canadian World Championship roster as an 18-year-old.

Of course there are stories of young defenders becoming dominant forces in the league early on. Look no further than Erik Karlsson, who won the Norris Trophy at 22-years-old, and John Klingberg, who will be a finalist for the award this year as a 23-year-old. However, there is no reason to put unreasonable expectations on a kid, like Pulock, who just became old enough to drink alcohol at Barclays Center.

Throughout the course of this season and next, Pulock will collect his share of goals and assists, as he’s noted for his offensive abilities. However, he will make mistakes. He will get trapped in the offensive zone, he will turn the puck over at center ice, he will miss a defensive assignment near the goal, and he’ll commit a multitude of other errors that Islanders fans will roll their eyes at.

Despite the frustration that will come from these episodes, it’s vitally important to remember that such mistakes are natural, and healthy, for a young defender to make as he’s transitioning to the fastest league in the world. All defensemen have suffered through an NHL learning curve. Islanders fans should not be too hard on the former 15th-overall draft pick early on. They should not be up in arms when Jack Capuano opts to ease him into the second-powerplay unit, and they shouldn’t be too surprised if the coach decides to give Pulock a game or two in the press box at times.

There’s a reason that the 6’1″ Manitoba native has garnered lofty expectations, and there are many reasons to believe he’ll achieve them. However, barring some Denis Potvin-like miracle, he will not reach them today, tomorrow, next week, or even next year. Only time will tell how he’ll fare at the NHL level, and fans should look towards his future. So far, the good news is, he looks pretty darn comfortable.

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