June 28, 2013
Ryan Pulock is at a point where relating his personal hardship is or the greater good.
When the NHL draft prospect was 15 years old, he was a passenger during a car crash that took the life of his younger brother, 13-year-old Brock Pulock. The Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman's ability to conquer true adversity was well-publicized in his native Manitoba. It went from local story to national last fall during the NHL lockout, when TSN aired a feature on how Pulock and Wheat Kings coach-GM-owner Kelly McCrimmon had bonded after each lost a brother they were very close to.
Pulock, his family and his hometown of Grandview, Man., which is holding a draft party on Sunday, will have a moment of triumph when Ryan is selected. Meantime, the 18-year-old hopes his story might help other people who are struggling emotionally.
"It took some time to adjust and to be able to talk about it," Pulock, who is NHL Central Scouting's 12th-ranked North American skater, said in a recent interview. "It was a pretty touchy subject for the first year or two. As it grew on me and I got used to it, I was able to open up about it, talk about it. I give props to [then-CTV/TSN reporter] Leah Hextall for doing the piece on me. She did a wonderful job and got the story out.
"I hope [it's inspiring], for sure," Pulock added. "It's something that you don't ever want to have to go through and it's something that people that go through. There's two ways to go. You can keep striving toward a goal. Or there's a way where you can shut things down and not be yourself. For me, I learned a lot and learnt to really enjoy life to the fullest after that. For me, I just want to make it as far as I can for my brother since we were really tight and he would want me to play in the NHL."
Pulock, along with Swedish defenceman Robert Hagg and the Seattle Thunderbirds' Shea Theodore, falls into the category of defencemen whose draft stock could be very volatile. Good offensive defencemen can sometimes go off the board early, as was the case last season when Hampus Lindholm and Derrick Pouliot went Nos. 6 and 8 overall to the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Pulock carried Brandon as best he could this season, counting 14 points and 45 points in 61 games for a last-place team. He also battled two significant injuries during the season. The Wheat Kings' lack of depth also made it easier for teams to build their game plan around nixing his sorties into the offensive zone. It was not an ideal showcase. Pulock, who's on Hockey Canada's summer development roster for the 2014 world junior championship, certainly has the tools, in particular his shot, offensive savvy and ability to catch opponents with a stiff open-ice check.
"It was definitely frustrating missing the playoffs, because that was a team goal," he said.
1. Which NHL player(s) do you study closely because his style of play resemblances what you hope to do in the league someday?
"Kind of a guy like Keith Yandle — good two-way guy who plays both ends of the rink, lots of offensive upside."
2. How do feel the injuries you played with affected your season, and how have you addressed it when a room full of NHL team scouts ask you about it?
"I broke my orbital bone in November and in January I broke my wrist, so I was in a cast for some time. It was tough. It limited my shot a lot and there were some key aspects of the game that I couldn't do to my full potential.
"You tell them [the NHL teams] everything, try to answer honestly."
3. What do you consider your proudest hockey achievement?
"Overall, I've had few good years in a junior and have come a long way with my game after being a seventh-round pick in the bantam draft [in 2009]. I've played a regular role on my team and put up some good numbers. I've been a little disappointed at times but I've battled through a lot. I'm proud of myself for that. There's a lot of good things to come in the future if I keep working hard.."
4. Being a third-year junior who misses the playoffs is a double whammy since you're too old for the world under-18s, but how close did you and Eric Roy get while training together in Brandon all spring?
"We've become very close. We've come together all the way up and have a very good relationship."
5. You're a Manitoba kid who plays for your province's only major junior team, but where is your favourite road rink?
"Edmonton [Rexall Place] and Calgary [Scotiabank Saddledome], the big rinks. We don't play in the Western Conference a lot [only every second season], so it's hard to pick one from out there."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.