Not much good has come out of this disappointing Islanders season, which is all over except for the official playoff elimination.
But rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock’s continued development bodes well for next season.
“He keeps getting better as the season goes along, and since we’ve drafted him, and he’s a big part of this group now,” said captain John Tavares, who may not be a part of the group next season if he leaves via free agency.
Pulock became the franchise’s first rookie defenseman to score two power-play goals in a game in Thursday night’s wild 7-6 loss to the Lightning.
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Pulock, 23, now has nine goals and 20 assists in 60 games for the Islanders (31-33-10), who are in a 2-8-4 spiral and were off on Friday. The Islanders continue a five-game homestand on Saturday night against the Blackhawks at Barclays Center.
“I think I can just keep improving,” said Pulock, selected 15th overall in 2013. “I want to be able to be reliable defensively and be put in those positions late in games. Just continue to improve all aspects of my game and see where it takes me.”
His two-goal outing extended his career-high point streak to five games, with three goals and five assists.
And Pulock can easily pinpoint the Islanders’ first game against the Blackhawks this season, a 7-3 win on Jan. 20, as a difference-maker in his season.
Pulock had a goal and four assists to set the Islanders’ team record for rookie defensemen with five points in that game.
“The Chicago game was kind of lucky in a sense,” Pulock said. “We kind of threw pucks on the net and everything seemed to find its way in. But you do gain trust and confidence in yourself and then you try to build off of that every single game.”
Pulock was a healthy scratch in 13 of the Islanders’ first 24 games this season. But he’s been a healthy scratch just once since, on Dec. 27, and Saturday night will mark his 38th straight game in the lineup.
Pulock had 15 goals and 31 assists in 55 games for Bridgeport (AHL) last season.
“We had the ability to watch him at Bridgeport and a lot of people saw the numbers there and just thought, ‘OK, we can’t wait to see this kid,’ ” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “It didn’t translate right away. He’s got a lot of confidence right now. Behind the scenes, he works hard. He watches a lot of video. He’s worked a lot on his technique defending and his technique skating. I think it’s shown.”