Get out the map. Ryan Pulock, the Islanders' No. 1 draft choice, Tuesday arrived at Nassau Coliseum and the team's minicamp from his hometown of Grandview, Manitoba.
"It's northwest of Winnipeg," Pulock said. "They call it 'the Gateway to the Duck Mountains,' so there's a lot of hunting, fishing, outdoors kind of stuff. There's a lot of farming in the area, as well."
It is a long way from Long Island, up there north of North Dakota, population 649. And Pulock, who declared himself "happy to be here," certainly had never set foot in Nassau County before.
And yet: "My first-ever practice, as a kid," the 18-year-old defenseman said, "I was wearing an Islanders jersey. I think that was a little bit due to my dad."
Dave Pulock, who had played some Junior-A hockey as a youngster, is a lifelong Islanders fan, though his son said: "I couldn't tell you why. I guess they had a lot of good years when he was growing up."
Indeed, however lengthy the franchise's recent struggles have been, those old days of four Stanley Cups continue to resonate in faraway places. Twenty-year-old Moscow-raised Andrey Pedan, the team's third-round pick a year ago, said Tuesday that he had followed NHL highlights closely as a child, and therefore was fully aware of the team on Long Island.
"For sure," he said, "I knew Mike Bossy and all those guys."
Less logical might be the younger Pulock's acknowledgement that, "As a kid, for some reason, I grew up a Buffalo fan." He has never been to that upstate city, either, though the odds are he will be playing NHL hockey there in a visiting uniform in the not-too-distant future.
During the four-day camp that began Tuesday, Islanders coach Jack Capuano made it clear that he and his staff, at this point, "don't even talk about which of the minicamp's 48 invited players have a shot at making the Islanders roster this season."
All of the campers are considered "prospects," 25 of them undrafted, several already under contract with the Islanders' Bridgeport affiliate, others from college programs spotted by Islanders scouts and worth a longer look.
Pulock declared the whole thing a "great" experience, "to get here and see the building and meet some of the guys in the organization, meet the players and coaching staff. First camp, you want to make a good impression. Obviously, I want to play here as soon as possible."
Any NHL team that drafted him, Pulock said, would have made his father "super thrilled." It's more than a geography lesson. "But to be his team from when he was growing up, I think it was just that much more special to him."
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