Brandon captain Ryan Pulock will be in distinguished company Wednesday night as the CHL Subway Super Series shifts west for the final two games.
After splitting decisions against the QMJHL and OHL stars, the Russian National Junior Team will now face a stacked Team WHL blueline that features four top-ten NHL picks from 2012 - Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Matt Dumba - plus Duncan Siemens, the 11th overall in 2011.
The Manitoba native currently sits at No. 8 overall in the McKeen's November rankings for the 2013 NHL Draft.
We caught up with Ryan this past week to discuss how his game and draft year were progressing.
McKeen’s: Where did you play your minor hockey?
Pulock: I pretty much played all my minor hockey in Grandview, Manitoba, and later in Dauphin, Manitoba.
McKeen’s: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you came into the WHL?
Pulock: Just the speed and size of the players, when I entered the league I wasn’t as big as I am now, so it was kind of a struggle to move guys out of the front of the net, but now that I put on a few pounds it’s helped me in that area of the game.
McKeen’s: You were named captain of the Wheat Kings. Were you expecting that - and were you prepared for this at such a young age?
Pulock: Well, it’s a big honour for me, coming from a small town in Manitoba. I’ve always cheered for the Wheat Kings. It’s a pretty good bunch of guys to lead and work with. We are a young team and they co-operate with me well, along with the other leaders on this team.
McKeen’s: With a lot of scouts watching you game after game, does that bother you?
Pulock: No, I ignore it as much possible, I just have to go out there and do what I have to do, and I’m sure things will fall into place for me.
McKeen’s: Do you pay much attention to the rankings throughout the season?
Pulock: I don’t really think I bother with or look at the rankings that much, I don’t really pay attention. I mean, some of my teammates might mention where I’m ranked from time to time but I’m not really tuning into that. My goal is to try and get better and improve everyday.
McKeen’s: Did you have any set goals individually, or with the team that you wanted to achieve this season?
Pulock: For sure, as a young team. I set some goals to help out offensively as much as possible. The strength on our team I believe this year is our back end, so I also want to improve defensively, in order to help us win every night.
McKeen’s: How much international experience have you had, and how has that helped you evolve as a player?
Pulock: I have played at a few international tournaments. Coming to mind is the under 18's, by which I don’t feel I played my best at these tournaments. But definitely the opportunity I had to play at that level with top players from around the world has helped me develop as a player.
McKeen’s: What is it like for you to be considered one of the top prospects in this year’s draft?
Pulock: It’s a huge honour to me. Growing up, the goal for me was always to make it to the NHL. Sometimes, you don’t think that it’s that realistic but now you realize it is within your grasp.
McKeen’s: What’s the strongest part of your game, and what are the things you want to work on?
Pulock: I’d say the strongest part of my game is my shot, and my offensive ability to carry the puck. I’d like to work a little on some of the defensive aspects of the game. But over the last year or so, I feel I’ve improved and gotten a little better.
McKeen’s: How would you characterize the style of defense you play - offense-oriented, stay-at-home, combination of both?
Pulock: I try to carry the puck as much as I can when the opportunity is there in order to contribute offensively. I guess I consider myself an offensive style of defenseman, but I’ve been working hard to become more of an overall two-way style of defenseman. The defensive zone has always been a struggle for me, but as I mentioned, I’ve been making improvements there.
McKeen’s: How important is training off the ice and developing core strength?
Pulock: It helps a ton, I’ve really noticed a big difference, especially as you get older. The game is much easier and simpler when you have that core strength and balance when you're battling players that are your size or larger. It takes way less effort to move guys as it did when I first came into the league.
McKeen’s: What’s it like to play for the Brandon Wheat Kings and GM/Coach Kelly McCrimmon?
Pulock: It’s amazing for me as I’m from Grandview, Manitoba. The Wheat Kings are the team I always grew up following and cheering for, and this organization has a lot going for it. It’s special for me because I’m close to home, and my family and friends can come out and watch me play.
McKeen’s: Has there been any player that you grew up watching in the NHL that you like to pattern your game after?
Pulock: There were a few guys I used to follow, Keith Yandle is one that comes to mind. He moves the puck well, and he’s fairly consistent in the defensive zone.
McKeen’s: Who has had the most influence on your hockey career to date?
Pulock: It would be my parents, they have helped me all the way through minor hockey, with the drives to practice’s, games, and tournaments, and have been there for me for support one hundred percent.
McKeen’s: What do you like to do in the off-season to relax away from the game?
Pulock: I played baseball, but not competitive anymore. I play a little slow pitch, and enjoy camping, fishing, and hunting, and being in the outdoors.