Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2022 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we bring you our Jiri Kulich Scouting Report.
Czechia forward Jiri Kulich had a real coming-out party at the recent IIHF Under-18 World Championships, leading the tournament in goals. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, part of the Tournament All-Star Team, and a top-three player on the Czechia team. Overall Kulich scored nine goals and two assists for 11 points in six tournament games, as the Czechia team finished fourth in the tourney. He also played for his country at the World Junior Championships and had one assist in two games before the tournament was cancelled/postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Kulich played his club hockey in the Czech Extraliga, the country’s top men’s league. He led all junior-aged players in the league in points. Playing for HC Energie Karlovy Vary, he put up nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 49 games. He also added one assist in three playoff games. Kulich also spent some time in the Czech Junior League. He scored two goals and two assists for four points in two regular-season games. Kulich added four goals and an assist for five points in four playoff games.
Jiri Kulich Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born April 14th, 2004 — Kadan, Czechia
Height 6’0″ — Weight 172 lbs [183 cm / 78 kg]
Kulich is a very good skater. He has a textbook stride and this helps him to generate speed and power. Kulich’s first few steps and his acceleration are very good. He also has excellent top-end speed. Kulich is very dangerous off the rush. If he gets a step on a defender, he can take him wide and cut to the front of the net. His agility is also very good as Kulich generates good lateral movement. He can work on his edgework though. Kulich’s turns are a little wide and his changes of direction could be improved. This is a minor complaint as he is still above average in these areas but it is the weakest part of his skating. His powerful stride helps him to fight through checks. He has good balance and strength, winning battles on the boards. This should get better as he matures physically.
Kulich is an excellent goal scorer, especially in between the hash-marks, in the “home plate” area of the ice. He has a knack for getting himself open in these areas and taking a pass from a teammate and firing the puck on the net. His wrist shot is extremely powerful and accurate. It also features a quick and deceptive release. Kulich also has a good snapshot and can even score with his backhand. He can also score in tight to the goalie with his ability to quickly elevate the puck. Kulich plays in the dirty areas of the ice and can bang in rebounds and get deflections as well. He is especially effective in playing the “bumper” position on the power play.
Kulich can also be an effective playmaker. He does a good job of protecting the puck down low in the cycle game. He also has the vision and anticipation to find open teammates. Kulich can make a creative pass through a tight passing lane and put the puck on a teammate’s tape. Kulich is more effective when the play is in the opponent’s end than he is in transition. His stickhandling doesn’t always keep up with his skating and he has to slow things down to control the puck in the neutral zone. He is more effective at moving the puck to a teammate and looking for a give and go as they gain the zone than he is at generating the puck entry himself.
Kulich’s defensive game is advanced for his age. He often stays as the third man high in the offensive zone, ensuring that he gets back to his own end quickly and helps out with back pressure against the rush. Kulich forces his man to the outside and away from the most dangerous scoring areas on the ice. He also works hard on the backcheck, supporting the defence down low and helping to cut off the cycle game. Kulich uses an active stick to cut down passing lanes and is willing to put his body on the line to block shots. He reads the play well, anticipating what opponents will do and creating turnovers. When he retrieves a loose puck, he moves it quickly to start the transition game. His work in the faceoff circle is also good for his age.
Projection and Comparison
Kulich can grow into an effective two-way centre if he is able to reach his potential. Given that his defensive game and skating are at a high level, he is a relatively safe pick as he should be able to play a bottom-six role even if his offence doesn’t fully translate at the NHL level. While his offensive game on the power play and working in the offensive zone are good, the struggles in transition give rise to questions if he can play in the top six going forward. Some development of his puckhandling skills as well as adding muscle to his frame will help him take his game to the next level. Expect him to spend another year or two in Europe before looking to transition to smaller North American ice. Kulich’s game is reminiscent of Bo Horvat. However, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Jiri Kulich that are available on youtube and Twitter.
Check out the slick move and finish by Jiri Kulich ('22).
He's up to 7 goals and 12 points in 27 Czech top-tier games – most among all U21 skaters.
He's 17. pic.twitter.com/ngFsDASjVi
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 3, 2021
An incredible shot for Jiri Kulich goes in and Czechia leads 1-0 on the PP.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) April 30, 2022
Jiri Kulich with a great shot makes it 6-5 on the PP. Czechs were dynamite on the man advantage.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) April 26, 2022
Jiří Kulich (#25 in white) is so much fun.
Generates quality lateral passing lanes in the neutral zone. He uses his reach to extend the puck far enough to avoid turning the puck over. Then cradles the puck around David Jiricek in the slot before scoring.#2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/LTO4Ga8XPV
— Josh Tessler 🇺🇦 (@JoshTessler_) December 22, 2021
— Marek Novotny (@MarekNovotny96) March 11, 2022
— Future Watch (@FutureWatch_TV) May 7, 2022
Can't wait to see how Jiří Kulich does at the #WorldJuniors.
He's constantly on the hunt for open ice in the slot to key up passing lanes. Nets the puck and quickly shoots. Quick release and go top shelf with ease.
Watch out for the #2022NHLDraft prospect during the tournament. pic.twitter.com/zQCrgc8r6J
— Josh Tessler 🇺🇦 (@JoshTessler_) December 24, 2021
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) April 30, 2022
Jiří Kulich #25 is back on the first line for the first time since the #WorldJuniors. He is hungry for the puck and it has a big impact on that line. This is his fifth assist of the season. #2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/Ey93n3A8It
— Marek Novotny (@MarekNovotny96) February 17, 2022
Watching over some WJC tape on #2022NHLDraft prospect Jiri Kulich. This clip is an excellent example of how strong Kulich's off puck play is. #27 in Red, Kulich boxes out McTavish from getting to the inside, leads with his stick and outmuscles him off the puck. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/7XBWWBPXVb
— Jared Brown (@JaredBrownn97) January 6, 2022
Check back tomorrow for our latest 2022 NHL Draft Article.
Jiri Kulich Scouting Report Main Photo:
SCOUCHING #1 – Jiri Kulich, C/LW, HC Karlovy Vary
Starting with a pet project for Will- “Kulich caught my eye early, largely due to how well-rounded his game is in many areas of the game at both ends”https://t.co/UA3o28IE9y pic.twitter.com/hqwWf1Xonz
— McKeen’s Hockey (@mckeenshockey) April 15, 2022