New York Islanders
Can Ryan Pulock Rediscover His Offense Game in Lambert’s System?
Although there is trust that the New York Islanders forwards can bounce back from a subpar showing in 2021-22, head coach Lane Lambert has asked his defensemen to get in on the rush and be aggressive so far this preseason and help generate offense when applicable.
Last season, the New York Islanders offense only averaged 2.73 goals per game, and their leading shot-getter was a defenseman in 22-year-old defenseman Noah Dobson. He notched 13 goals in a breakout year, and the Islanders are banking that he can mimic his success in 2022-23.
Another player on the backend who could have a strong offensive year is 23-year-old Robin Salo, who plays an aggressive and active style, to begin with, as he seems comfortable playing the way Lambert wants his backend to play.
That takes care of two defensive pairings, but what about the top one?
Adam Pelech is THE shutdown defenseman on the roster, with his partner Ryan Pulock supposed to be the offensive talent on that line. But over the last two years, Ryan Pulock has not been able to bring that offensive consistency.
READ MORE: Is the 2022-23 Season The Real Prove-It Year for the New York Islanders?
In 2021-22, a season in which Pulock missed over 10 weeks due to a lower-body injury, the seven-year NHLer played in just 56 games with just five goals and 16 assists, along with 122 shots. His 4.10 shooting percentage was the second-lowest mark of his career.
Back completely healthy, Ryan Pulock told NYI Hockey Now that he knows he can be better in the offensive zone.
“That’s the biggest thing for me going forward here is just trying to improve that area of my game,” Ryan Pulock shared about bringing more offense. “I’m just always trying to get better in all areas. But I think, you know, I know inside that I can bring more offensively. I’ve done a little bit, and I still believe I can even bring more than that.”
“So, just trying to find that and, you know, trying to put myself in a position to be able to help out in that way.”
Head coach Lane Lambert thinks that the more aggressive system should help Pulock because the team is counting on him.
“I think it’ll help all our defense jump into the play a little bit more, but responsibly jump into the play, so we’re not getting caught. But you know, I’ve seen him. He’s he’s definitely got a role,” Lambert said. “He looks good. And obviously, he’s one of our top defensemen that we’re going to count on.”
Before his injury, Pulock’s struggle to hit the net led to him being removed from the Islanders’ top power-play unit in favor of Noah Dobson, and despite playing minutes on the second grouping, he has not been a member of the power play, so far through training camp and preseason.
We asked Lambert if Pulock needs to earn back his power-play minutes.
“I don’t even think it’s necessarily that as much as just there’s certain roles that guys are playing, and you know, he’ll get his opportunity there as well.”
The Islanders will need their defense to contribute offensively to hang with the many offensive teams that make up the Metropolitan Division.
“It’s important. There’s no question about it. It’s, you know, the game is you’ve got to have the defense joining [the rush],” Lambert said. “You gotta have the defense contributing. It’s just too structured otherwise.”
With Noah Dobson and Robin Salo bringing that offensive mindset to the backend, having Ryan Pulock on the top pair contributing on both sides of the ice makes the Islanders much more dynamic and dangerous.