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Passed over in the 2013 NHL Draft, Edgars Kulda returned to the Edmonton Oil Kings with something to prove in his second year in the WHL. They 19-year-old had a solid regular season with 30 goals and 60 points in 66 games, but turned things up a notch in the playoffs where he had 10 goals and 22 points in 21 games in helping Edmonton win the WHL Championship. He would find yet another level in the Memorial Cup, picking up 4 goals and 7 points in 5 games to win the Stafford Smythe Trophy as tournament MVP, and help the Oil Kings to their first Memorial Cup Championship (as far as their current franchise goes).
If the name is familiar to NHL fans, it is because his older brother, Arturs Kulda was a 7th round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and he played 15 NHL games with the Thrashers and Winnipeg Jets. Arturs Kulda is now playing for Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL.
Edgars Kulda comes from Latvia and has international experience at the 2012 U18 Worlds (3 goals, 4 points in 6 games), 2013 World Juniors (1 goal, 2 points in 6 games) and 2014 World Junior Division 1a (1 goal 7 points in 6 games). He helped Latvia to a second place finish in that division 1a tournament (2nd tier of the World Juniors). One advantage Kulda has is that as a late 1994 birthdate he is immediately eligible to go to the AHL meaning that he can go into pro hockey next season, and might be able to develop faster than some of the other prospects in this range.
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Nov 13 1994 — Riga, Latvia
Height 6.00 — Weight 178 [183 cm/81 kg]
Edgars Kulda is a very good skater. He has an excellent first step, and very good acceleration. More quick than fast, those attributes will help him win loose pucks close quickly on defencemen when he is going for the forecheck. His top end speed is still above average, it just isn’t at the same level as his first few strides. Kulda shows very good agility and edgework as he deflty avoids checkers and gets around defenders putting him in position to create a scoring chance. He has the balance and strength to control the puck in the cycle game and to win board battles.
Kulda is an excellent stickhandler, using a wide variety of moves to control and protect the puck. He has a very good shot and release and that led to his great increase in goal scoring this season. Kulda has good vision and can make strong passes to set up teammates. However there still are some questions about exactly how much his offence will translate at the next level. In any event he is a diligent hard-working forward who can grind in the dirty areas of the ice and wins battles along the boards and in front of the net.
Edgars Kulda works hard in the defensive zone, and backchecks hard. He supports the defence when the puck is down low on the cycle and helps to contain opponents to the outside. He is a tenacious player who is always in the middle of the action, fighting along the boards and in the middle of every scrum. He can be a pest and has been known to drop the gloves from time-to-time.
Kulda has the potential to be a top 6 forward if he continues to develop, but I think it is more likely that he ends up as an effective third liner who can chip in a little offence as well. His style is reminiscent of Reilly Smith of the Boston Bruins but this is a style comparison and not a talent one.
Here’s some highlights of Edgars Kulda in action.
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