Ryan Pulock and Griffin Reinhart have seen enough of each other as competitors that they’re looking forward to the day they’ll play together as teammates.
The all-star defencemen went head-to-head in the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, with Reinhart’s Edmonton Oil Kings eliminating Pulock’s Brandon Wheat Kings in Game 5 of the series on Friday night in Edmonton.
Both players are first-round draft picks of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders, but they’ve known each other for years, competing for spots on Hockey Canada national teams.
"Obviously we’ve had a few different Hockey Canada things with him and going to New York camp with him, so obviously I know him fairly well off the ice, and obviously he’s a good player on the ice," said Pulock, the Wheat Kings’ 19-year-old captain.
While they’ve taken part in several Hockey Canada camps, come tournament time they’ve never had a chance to team up.
Reinhart has played in two world junior championships and the under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament on Canadian teams that Pulock didn’t make. Pulock’s appearance at the world under-18 championship came when Reinhart’s early birthday made him too old for the event. Their birthdates also made Reinhart NHL draft eligible one year before Pulock, even though they’re in the same hockey age group.
The Islanders chose the towering Reinhart with the fourth overall pick of the 2012 entry draft, then chose the more offensive-minded Pulock last year with the 15th pick.
They’re both expected to play professionally somewhere in the Islanders’ system next season, either with the NHL club or its American Hockey League affiliate. With NHL roster spots so hard to come by, it’s likely they’ll be in competition again, at least early in their careers, for spots with the Islanders.
"I think it happens in every camp, you’re always going to be taking somebody’s spot if you make it," said Reinhart, who turned 20 in January. "That’s part of the game; everybody’s used to that. It’s been that way a long time, so (head-to-head competition is) not the way I look at it at all."
Pulock views it the same way, at least until game time.
"You always get to know other guys and when you’re going on the ice, you aren’t buddies anymore. It’s battle time," said Pulock, who has been assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. "But off the ice you can become pretty good friends with those other guys."
Both players have taken different routes to get where they are now.
The son of former NHL blue-liner Paul Reinhart, the 6-foot-4, 202-pound Griffin Reinhart has been a blue-chip prospect all along and was the third overall selection in the 2009 WHL bantam draft. His older brother, Max, has already received a taste of the NHL with the Calgary Flames, while younger brother Sam of the Kootenay Ice will soon follow suit as a potential first overall pick in this year’s draft.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound Pulock was a hidden gem, with the Grandview native waiting until the seventh round of the 2009 bantam draft before the Wheat Kings called his name.
But both have become among the best at their position in junior hockey, with Pulock making the WHL’s Eastern Conference first all-star team this year, while Reinhart was a second-teamer.
"(Pulock is) obviously a really talented defenceman," Reinhart said. "I’ve played against him in this league for a while. He was a high (NHL) pick as well, so to be on his team, it would be a lot better than playing against him."