Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock has 25 points in 24 games. (FILE PHOTO)
Assistant coach Darren Ritchie watches Wheat King captain Ryan Pulock skate with a full faceshield in a recent practice. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Ryan Pulock feels like he did all he could to garner the attention of Canadian junior team scouts.
But with an incredibly deep class of elite defencemen to choose from, Hockey Canada did not pick the Brandon Wheat Kings captain as one of the 12 blue-liners who will attend the 37-player junior team selection camp in Calgary from Dec. 11-13.
"It’s definitely disappointing," Pulock said Monday. "I thought I had a pretty good start to the year to give myself an opportunity for at least a camp invite. But there’s some positives to look at and I always have another chance next year."
At 18, Pulock should indeed get another chance next season to wear Canada’s colours.
This year, eleven WHLers were picked for the selection camp, including five defencemen in Matt Dumba (Red Deer), Derrick Pouliot (Portland), Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton) and Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw) — all 18-year-olds who were picked in the top eight in the 2012 NHL draft — along with 19-year-old Tyler Wotherspoon (Portland). There are also two veteran defencemen back from last year’s junior team in OHLers Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington, two of seven 19-year-olds in this year’s camp who won’t be eligible next year.
Still, that didn’t lessen the disappointment for Pulock and the Wheat Kings organization.
"Obviously from having watched him play for two and a half years, we feel he has established himself to be a player at that level and I was disappointed for him that he didn’t get invited," Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon said.
"It is a tremendously deep position with the defencemen that Hockey Canada had at their disposal to select, so it was a real deep crop ... and Ryan will still have an opportunity a year from now to hopefully represent Canada at the world juniors in the 2014 tournament. But certainly today, disappointed that he didn’t get the opportunity to attend the camp."
Despite missing the past six games due to a facial injury, Pulock remains tied for third in scoring among WHL defencemen with nine goals and 25 points in 24 games, while also posting a team-leading +14 plus/minus rating. His 101mph slapshot and NHL-calibre one-timer from the point have also caught the attention of scouts, with Pulock pegged in the top 10 for next year’s NHL draft in a number of pre-draft rankings.
Despite his disappointment, the 6-foot-1, 211-pound native of Grandview said this only makes him more determined to earn a spot on next year’s junior team.
"Growing up, you always watched the world juniors and it was always a goal or a dream to reach," Pulock said. "Being as close as I am is definitely cool, but hopefully I can have a good rest of this season and get a summer invite (to the junior development camp) ... and have a crack at the team next year."
The Wheat Kings don’t believe Pulock’s facial injury was a factor in him being kept off the list. Pulock was injured when he took a puck in the face during a Nov. 16 game in Cranbrook, B.C., and has been wearing a full faceshield in practice while waiting for the injury to heal enough in order to play. He is now listed as day-to-day and hopes to get approval from the team doctor tomorrow to return to the lineup.
"Right now, as things are going, the plan is for this Friday," said Pulock, who has watched his team struggle to a 0-5-0-1 record in six games without him in the lineup to fall out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. "I see a doctor this week for a final decision, but for me I am really hoping this weekend.
"It’s been a tough stretch for me, having the injury that I have, I feel good enough to play, but I guess it’s kind of precautionary. So it’s definitely tough to watch what we have gone through in the last month."
In addition to Pulock, the Wheat Kings (10-16-2-2) have been without C Tyrel Seaman (upper-body injury, week-to-week) and Tim McGauley (upper-body, day-to-day), RW Jens Meilleur (lower-body, day-to-day), RW Jack Palmer (upper-body, two weeks) and D Rene Hunter, who missed the weekend due to illness.
Head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk is hoping to get a couple of players back for Friday night when the Wheat Kings open up a four-game home stand by battling the Spokane Chiefs at Westman Place at 7:30.
"Guys have bumps and bruises and we battled through that and we’re continuing to try to get better every day and when we get guys back in the lineup, they are going to add some energy and some enthusiasm in the lineup, which will be a bonus for us," he said.
ICINGS: Swiss LW Alessio Bertaggia is the Wheat Kings’ Tip Top Tailors player of the month for November after firing five goals and racking up 12 points in nine games while posting a +5 plus/minus rating. The 19-year-old native of Lugano, who will leave Sunday to attend the Swiss junior team selection camp, leads the Wheat Kings in scoring with 15 goals and 31 points in 27 games ... Brandon C Nick Buonassisi played his 300th career WHL game on Sunday ... The Saskatoon Blades have traded D Brett Lernout, 17, to the Swift Current Broncos for a 2013 fourth-round WHL bantam draft pick, with Saskatoon acquiring D Shayne Gwinner, 18, from the Prince Albert Raiders for a 2014 fifth-round pick ... Prince George Cougars C Colin Jacobs has been suspended for six games for a checking-to-the-head major on Nov. 30 ... The Saskatoon Blades have been fined $750 for their second multiple fight situation of the season on Dec. 1.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 4, 2012