Skating backwards to defend the odd-man rush, Matt Lindgren had Jiri Kulich’s only passing option covered during a drill at the Buffalo Sabers’ Morning Skate at LECOM Harborcenter on Saturday.
All Lindgren could see as Kulich threw the puck into the cross bar and net, giving another signal to his teammates and coaches that he was ready to return for fear of an injury that kept him out of the Prospects Challenge opener.
“Oh, very well,” said Lindgren, still in disbelief at what had unfolded on the ice. “He came down 2-on-1 on me, I guess second drill or something. Snatched it, down the bar. I really couldn’t do anything like that, I guess.”
Kulich was not done there. Rochester coach Seth Appert called Rochester coach Seth Appert “creepy” during Saturday night’s 7-4 win over the New Jersey Devils’ prospects.
People are reading…
Kulich’s tantric brilliance did not cause the audible gasp that he had throughout the development camp. He scored a blank-net goal, added two assists and, although he showed some rust from missing time in camp, it was the brilliance of the dynamic skill set that convinced Sabers management that he was ready to play for Emerks this season.
Ethan Ritchie, Philippe Cederquist, Alexander Kisakov, Spencer Sowa, Isaac Rosen and Matt Savoie also scored for the Sabers, who made 27 saves from goalkeeper Beck Warm to improve the Prospects tournament 2–0.
Kulich, 18, was noticeable throughout the game. Centering a line with Lukas Rousek on the left and Isaac Rosen on the right, Kulich skated around the defenders and showed balance with the puck. But it is his game without the puck that will help him transition to pro hockey in North America. Kulich is brutal on Forecheck and tries tirelessly to gain possession. He assisted the Sabers on a penalty kill in the third period on Saturday.
“He’s a dynamic player,” said Appert, who is leading the Sabers in the Prospects Challenge. “He’s a goal scorer that’s not just a goal scorer, right? You saw that in World Juniors as a double under edger he’s also a fourchecker. That’s the guy who hunts the puck, comes with puck battles.” It ripens in difficult areas.
“He’s built differently than most 18-year-olds, so we believe he’s up for the challenge in the American Hockey League, or what else. But we believe in him.” No one is more invested in their development than we are, so when we have talented young players like them, Rosen and Kisakov, we can’t rely on someone else to do what we’re trying to do through a developmental process. instead of developing them that is not affiliated with our organization.”
Twice, Sabers general manager Kevin Adams tried to make a first-round trade to select Kulich, starting with pick number 17. A deal did not work out, however, forcing Adams and his hockey operations staff to sit down and hope that the Czech center would be available in Montreal when Buffalo was on the clock again that night.
To the surprise of those watching Kulich at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship, Kulich fell to the Sabers on 28 overall. Apert knows better or better than anyone how to properly evaluate a player’s performance in tournaments. He was part of Team USA’s coaching staff in two under-18s, including as its head coach in 2018. Apert was “blown away” by Kulich’s performance.
As captain of Czechia, Kulich was named tournament MVP after leading all players on goals (9) and points (11) in six games.
“Frankly, I was surprised that he fell where he fell,” Appert said. “And then felt even more in the development camp. Most goal scorers of that age don’t play too hard. That’s the reality. They just don’t. They don’t know how to act. They don’t know how to forecheck Goes, be responsible defensively, because he’s been the best player in his team’s entire life and has scored so many goals that he’s allowed to get away with things. He has a work ethic, and a so-called so called one about him. B game. It also gives us a lot of confidence about bringing him here this year, that he won’t be overwhelmed.”
Kulich is different though. He proved again at last month’s IIHF World Junior Championships, featuring some of the world’s top under-18s, that he can win puck battles and earn a spot in the offensive against older, stronger competition. His eight points in seven matches were tied for the team lead with 20-year-old Canadiens prospect John Massack.
Still unsure where he will play this season, Kulich told reporters that his focus is on improving “every day” to try to reach the NHL. “Yeah, that’s my goal,” he said. Kulich, contrary to most prospects, has the necessary strength at his age. Listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds, he played 57 pro games in Czechia. His adjustment will be like that of JJ Pieterka, who experienced some challenges with Amerx last season, but through better defense, he scored 25 games from January 1 to the end of the season.
“When he takes a lot of pucks, the players we’re talking about are special with the puck,” Appert said. “But it’s how good they can be at getting it back that really starts to ignite their offensive game.”
Here are other observations from the game:
Lukas Rousek looks like an early favorite to last longer than expected in NHL training camp. Again, Rousek, 23, was a force on the puck under Hashmark and his pass to the Blue Line sent the Devils into a scuffle, which also included a goal from Richie’s first round.
In this event nerves are indispensable for probabilities. They are trying to make a strong impression, and, in Kisakov’s case, this incident is their introduction to NHL momentum. The 18-year-old winger appeared more comfortable on the ice, especially as he swung down the left wing to separate from defenseman Riley Walsh and beat goalkeeper Nico Dow 3-1 at the far post with a wrist shot to make it 3-1. defeated.
And Savoie eventually broke through on the offensive when he scored a crucial insurance goal to give the Sabers a 6-4 lead with 6:54 remaining in regulation.
Oskari Laksonen pushed back in the first period when the Devils crashed the net after the whistle. It must have been a welcome sight for Rochester’s coaching staff, which has prompted Laksonen to engage more physically in the defensive zone.
Laaksonen should show management this season that his development is on an upward trajectory. Laaksonen has 51 points in 99 regular-season games with Rochester, a third-round pick in 2017, but he was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs due to his defensive habits.
“He knows it’s a big season. He’s really bought,” said Rochester assistant coach Mike Weber. “And obviously, last year last year. The messaging has been like this. And you have an opportunity when the season is over and really work on yourself, find that mental fortitude, work on your strength and your speed and your agility – all these things – and come camp and have a new season.
With winger Josh Bloom (upper body) unavailable, Lake View native Declan McDonnell drew into the Sabers lineup and skated in the left wing next to Nolan Burke and Emmett Sproul. McDonnell, 20, also skated with the club at the development camp. Despite his exceptional play in the Ontario Hockey League, he was unsigned by Tampa Bay following his selection in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.
The prospect challenge continues on Sunday when the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens face each other at LeCome HarborCenter in the afternoon. Sabers have to practice at 10:45 am