Brett Kulak looking for positives

Patrick Johnston
November 30 2012 01:43PM

 


 

If ever there was a season that could be held up about the way plans can change in junior hockey, the current edition of the Vancouver Giants would be one. Always expected to be a battling team rather than a dominant team, troubles in goal and a lack of forward depth has pushed the Giants into full-on rebuilding mode.

Going into the season, the Giants knew they had holes but they didn't think that defence would be an issue. They had two highly-touted NHL prospects in David Musil and Brett Kulak to lead they way.

But Musil has been traded and they've lost leading scoring Marek Tvrdon for the season. The goalie situation has been upturned, with 16-year-old prospect Payton Lee minding the crease - probably a year earlier than expected - and most games finishing with the opposition on top.

It's a difficult situation for any player.

Making the Most of it

On Wednesday, Kulak and his mates dropped a tough 2-1 loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors, a game where the Giants had plenty of chances but had more than enough trouble hitting the net. Close but no cigar is becoming the catch-phrase to describe the Vancouver season.

"It's always tough when it's a tie game all that long and they end up scoring," said Kulak. "For me, I'm just going to try to keep things simple and focus on the next game coming. And try to live in the now and not so much get caught up in looking at what's ahead just make the plays."

Entering the season, Don Hay and his coaching staff had a set of expectations for Kulak, including that he play like he could be a number one defenceman. With Musil's departure, Kulak is now clearly 'that guy.' Against Moose Jaw, he played a steady game, carrying the puck up-ice confidently, as the team expects him to do. But looking across the ice, there was Morgan Rielly, the embodiment of the kind of player Kulak says he would like to be.

"It's nice to go up against a guy like that," he said. "It gives me a chance to see where I'm at and where I need to get to."

"He's a pretty strong kid, he's a really good skater and he's got a good shot too. It just shows me where I need to get to. He definitely has the ability to take over," he said.

He looks across the ice and he also sees how to build self-belief.

"Confidence, it comes from the big plays, if you want to go for a rush, just get more confidence with the puck," he said.

With his mental and physical game progressing, it's now down to how he develops as a leader. The team is not shy of veterans - captain Wes Vannieuwenhuizen and leading scorer Trevor Cheek are two strong presences - but there are plenty of young players who are being asked to do things they've never before contemplated.

"You really got to be a leader for the younger guys," Kulak said. "You've got to compete hard to show the younger guys what it takes to play in this league."

In the end, thinking the game will be what takes Kulak forward. Even away from the rink, he's thinking about the game, he admits, letting himself just a few breaks off.

"I play video games a little bit with the roommate but sometimes I'll take a game tape; just pick out thing you did wrong. Sometimes you pick what you did well," he said.

If studying game tape isn't a sign of focus and determination, it's hard to say what is.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Clay
November 30 2012, 09:33AM
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Unfortunate circumstances for Kulak this year, but I'd prefer to have him thrown into the deep end like this than face very little adversity like Wotherspoon in Portland.

On another note, the Gaudreauby Baker shirt fits just a touch small, or I need to lay off the beer.

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#2 Baalzamon
November 30 2012, 10:02AM
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in fairness to the Musil trade, Mason Geertsen has been fairly good for the Giants so far.

I still think Kulak is the best defender the Flames got last year. He's certainly the one highest on his team's depth chart. I like all 3 of them (Culkin slightly less so than the others), but Kulak probably has the highest ceiling. Well, time will tell, of course.

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#3 T&A4Flames
November 30 2012, 12:42PM
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I'm liking what I've heard about Kulak so far. I really just wish we had 1 D-man outside of Brodie that we could talk about who progressed nicely after a few years of us drafting them. All our best D prospects were picked last year and Wotherspoon 2 drafts ago; NONE are outside of junior.

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#4 Johny Bones
November 30 2012, 03:04PM
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T&A4Flames wrote:

I'm liking what I've heard about Kulak so far. I really just wish we had 1 D-man outside of Brodie that we could talk about who progressed nicely after a few years of us drafting them. All our best D prospects were picked last year and Wotherspoon 2 drafts ago; NONE are outside of junior.

It's interesting that the Flames defensive prospect corps at the pro level is suffering right now, whereas a few years ago it was considered a position of depth. A few years ago, they had guys like Erixon, Brodie, Breen, Pelech, Negrin, Baldwin, etc. Now, alot of those guys are gone and the only notable D-man under 25 at the pro level the Flames have is TJ Brodie.

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#5 Kent Wilson
November 30 2012, 03:18PM
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@Johny Bones

Yeah. Things can change quickly.

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