There have been a lot of players getting hype over the last few weeks in Calgary. Mike Smith and Johnny Gaudreau are a few, but one player has flown under the radar and he deserves some praise. That player is Brett Kulak.
He’s been quietly having a great start to the season but last night’s win over Detroit was real proof of how much he’s improved from last year to now. In the last couple games, he’s cemented himself as the Flames sixth defenseman when Travis Hamonic returns from injury. He registered two points against the Wings but its the plays he’s been making that have been the most impressive.
Defensively Kulak has been stout, despite having to carry along anchors in Matt Bartkowski and even Michael Stone at times. He’s consistently made the most of his limited ice time to improve the Flames third pairing, something desperately needed as the top two pairings can’t continually play 25+ minutes per night. Two of his assists have come off his shots being deflected as its encouraging to see yet another Flames defender that can get the puck to the net.
Kulak has also excelled on breaking out of the defensive zone whether its carrying the puck out of the zone and into the attacking zone, or making great passes like the one we saw to Gaudreau last night which led to Jagr’s goal. Here’s the goal to that shows Kulak’s great assist on the replay, plus we also love seeing Jagr score for the Flames.
Click here if you can’t see the highlight
He skated for 14:53 against the Red Wings which was his season high, and if he continues to play the way he has lately, then expect that number to keep rising. Kulak has shown himself to be a hard worker this season, but even more importantly of late is that he looks confident when making difficult plays.
As is the case for every player, he still has made some mistakes such as being caught pinching against Vancouver which led to their fifth goal, but he wasn’t squarely to blame on the play and will surely learn from them.
Some of his advanced stats aren’t great, his RelCF% is at -2.82% which is middle of the pack for the Flames. It is important to note that his regular linemates Matt Bartkowski and Michael Stone do have the two worst numbers at -9.53% and -7.84% respectively.
We’ve seen tastes of what Brett Kulak could do prior to this season, but over the last few games it has all really come together for him and he makes the Flames third pairing a threat instead of the dropoff from the top pairings it once was. If he maintains this level of play, expect his roles and ice time to continue to increase as the season progresses.
At this point I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say he could be the Flames fifth best defenceman, perhaps even better at times. Once again, thanks Vegas for taking Engelland over Kulak in the expansion draft (you could’ve had both!).