Long considered proponents of drafting WHL defenders (see also: Dion Phaneuf), the Calgary Flames went predictably to the Dub in the 2012 Entry Draft, selecting Brett Kulak in the fourth round. However, Kulak’s a bit of an oddity, being an Alberta native playing in Vancouver who admits to having cheered for the Edmonton Oilers (albeit in the past).
FlamesNation’s Ryan Pike spoke with Kulak this week at Flames development camp.
Ryan Pike: How would you describe your past season?
Brett Kulak: I came in and it was my rookie year, so my first goal was to make the team. I just started getting more and more minutes, coach started trusting me a little more as the season went on as I gained confidence and got better. And then I started looking at things like goals for the Top Prospect Game and then the draft. It all managed to work out. I played pretty good this season and I’m looking forward to next year.
RP: Did your situation as a WHL rookie keep you hungry and improving throughout the season?
BK: Oh yeah, definitely. I was always competing to stay in the line-up, for sure. We had a couple of rookie defensemen, so it was usually between us who stayed in the line-up, so you’re always playing hard to battle for the spot in the next game, pretty much.
RP: The Flames will probably use this year’s draft class as a benchmark for their new strategy of drafting players with good “hockey-sense.” How does it feel to be part of the first wave of players chosen under this strategy?
BK: It feels good, because obviously that’s my game. I use my skating and my hockey sense to my advantage, so I’ll manage to fit in good with that over here.
RP: Do you have any goals for next season?
BK: Just take on more minutes. I didn’t play too much power play, so I want to be like a number-one power-play guy on the back end, take more of a leadership role, for sure.
RP: You had some good offensive numbers for a guy that didn’t get much time on the power-play. Do you think your scoring totals will go up with more special-teams minutes?
BK: It’s something exciting for next year to see how it goes. I did get a pretty good opportunity this year just five-on-five and I managed to capitalize when I could, but next year definitely looking forward to more power-play and hopefully get more points.
RP: Flames forward Lance Bouma came through the Vancouver Giants program, even winning a Memorial Cup. Have you spoken with him about what to expect in the next few years?
BK: I haven’t had a chance to talk with Lance. I remember when I was going in as a 16-year-old in Vancouver at the camps and that he was out there. If you watched him, he was one of the biggest, stronger, better guys on the ice. You watch him and kind of look after him as a role model almost, but besides that, my agent told me what to expect.
RP: There are a lot of veteran players at this camp, including a bunch of guys with Memorial Cup and World Junior experience. What are you learning from being around them?
BK: It’s good to see how hard they compete, how big and strong they are and just really shows you where you need to get to to compete with those guys and make the next step.