While the Islanders wait to see how serious Calvin de Haan’s lower-body injury is — and a source indicated Tuesday that it may not be a long-term problem — the Isles’ day off seemed like a good time to check in on Ryan Pulock’s progress with Bridgeport.
Pulock, still only 21, is the only one of the Isles’ three top defense prospects not to get a call-up this season. Adam Pelech, a 2012 third-round pick, had two recalls and played extremely well in five games with the Islanders but is now sidelined indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.
Scott Mayfield, a 2011 second-rounder, also had a couple of call-ups and played capably in three appearances. So perhaps it’s Pulock’s turn now.
“From the start of the year, there’s been huge improvement in his game,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson told Newsday on Tuesday afternoon before the Sound Tigers’ game with Springfield. “I feel like his injury last season [a shoulder injury that cost Pulock two months] set his game back a little, and coming into camp this year he wasn’t quite there yet. But since then it’s been steady improvement all year. He’s a true professional and he’s going to be a good NHL player, we all know that.”
Pulock’s goal total is down from his rookie AHL season, when he had 17 in 54 games. He had six goals in 48 games entering Tuesday’s action, but Thompson sees a much more reliable defenseman than the one he coached last season — and reliability is what will get him NHL minutes.
“His defensive game, his game away from the puck — it’s been really good,” Thompson said. “When he got here, those parts of his game were nonexistent — in juniors, it was offense, offense, offense for him. He’s got that weapon of a shot and he could help the [Islanders’] power play right now, but if he’s not good enough in his own end, no one will ever see that shot because he won’t get a chance. He’s shown so much improvement in that aspect of his game.”
And Thompson said he’s barely seen any disappointment from Pulock over the Pelech and Mayfield recalls this season.
“Maybe there was a day you could tell he was bothered by it, but then it’s gone,” Thompson said. “He’s a focused young man and he carries himself like a pro. He’s happy for those guys because those are his closest friends on the team and I think Ryan understood, especially when Pelly got the call [in November], that he wasn’t at the top of his game yet.”