We’ve remarked on it before, but it really is amazing how many good defence prospects there are in this year’s draft, and the greatest source of these defencemen continues to be the WHL. The WHL’s crop of defenders is seemingly endless, and it continues today with Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants. Kulak may have been just a rookie in the WHL this year, but he played an important role for the Giants at both ends of the rink. Kulak seemed to get better and better as the season wore on, and was a key playoff contributor for the Giants with 4 points in 6 games in their opening round playoff loss. In a more obscure and fun moment for Kulak this year, he scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal in a December game that was covered live coast-to-coast in Canada on Sportsnet’s Friday Night Hockey. For those who don’t know, every December a number of CHL teams hold a “teddy bear toss” where they encourage fans to bring the stuffed animals to the game, and throw them on the ice after the first goal by the home team. The bears are then rounded up and given to local charities to distribute to worthy causes at Christmas time. Fellow draft prospect Derrick Pouliot, could only sit and watch as the Teddy Bears came flying down in Vancouver.
Born Jan 6 1994 — Stony Plain, ALTA
Height 5.11 — Weight 165 — Shoots Left
Kulak’s biggest asset is his tremendous hockey IQ. Whether it be offensively or defensively he plays such a calm steady game. His positioning on the ice is outstanding, as is his decision making. He always seems to pick the right time to join the rush, make a pinch at the blue line, play it safe and hang back, or make the smart pass. He reads the play exceptionally well, and this will help him immensely going forward.
Offensively Kulak has good vision and passing ability. His outlet passes are tape to tape and start the Vancouver transition game effectively and efficiently. He continues this excellent playmaking ability in the offensive zone where he is able to set up teammates for good scoring opportunities. At the point, Kulak doesn’t have the hardest slapshot, but he keeps it low and accurate where it can provide for screens, deflections, and rebound opportunities.
In the defensive end, Kulak understands how to cut down passing and shooting lanes. He keeps his man to the outside when defending against the rush and plays his position with textbook efficiency. His size however is a concern as he can be overpowered in board battles, and he is not very physical. He also is more likely to work at tying up an opponents stick in front of the net than to be a physical crease clearer. His other assets do make him a good defender however. He may become even better if he can add some muscle to his frame in the coming years.
Kulak’s biggest weakness is his skating. It is merely average, and holds him back from being an elite defender. His top end speed and acceleration are slightly below average and Kulak will need work on these areas. His pivots, edgework, and agility are slightly better which allow him some decent mobility defensively.
Kulak has the potential to be a top 4 defender in the NHL, capable of being used in all situations, and getting big special teams minutes. We’d peg his potential as being a defender similar to Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers.
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