Skating backward to defend an odd-man rush, Mats Lindgren had Jiri Kulich’s solely passing possibility lined throughout a drill early within the Buffalo Sabers’ morning skate Saturday at LECOM Harborcenter.
All Lindgren might do was watch as Kulich rifled the puck off the cross bar and into the online, offering his teammates and coaches with one other signal that he was able to return from an damage scare that saved him out of the Prospects Problem opener.
“Oh, so good,” Lindgren mentioned, nonetheless in disbelief from what unfolded on the ice. “He got here down 2-on-1 on me, I believe on the second drill or one thing. He sniped it, bar down. There wasn’t actually something I might do, I assume.”
Kulich wasn’t completed there. He showcased his mixture of pace, fast palms and a shot that Rochester coach Seth Appert described as “scary” in the course of the Sabers’ 7-4 win over the New Jersey Devils’ prospects Saturday night time.
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Kulich’s tantalizing expertise did not trigger the audible gasps that it did all through growth camp. He scored an empty-net objective, added two assists and, although he confirmed some rust from lacking time in camp, there have been flashes of the dynamic talent set that satisfied Sabers administration that he is able to play for the Amerks this season.
Ethan Ritchie, Filip Cederqvist, Aleksandr Kisakov, Spencer Sova, Isak Rosen and Matt Savoie additionally scored for the Sabres, who acquired 27 saves from goalie Beck Heat to enhance to 2-0 on the prospects match.
Kulich, 18, was noticeable all through the sport. Centering a line with Lukas Rousek at left wing and Isak Rosen on the suitable aspect, Kulich skated round defenders and confirmed poise with the puck. However it’s his play with out the puck that can assist him with the transition to professional hockey in North America. Kulich is ferocious on the forecheck and works tirelessly to regain possession. I helped the Sabers on the penalty kill within the third interval Saturday.
“He is a dynamic participant,” mentioned Appert, who’s main the Sabers on the Prospects Problem. “He is a objective scorer that is not only a objective scorer, proper? You noticed that on the World Juniors as a double beneath age that he is additionally a forechecker. He is the man that goes hunts pucks, comes up with puck battles, takes pucks to laborious areas.
“He is constructed otherwise than most 18-year-olds, so we imagine he’s prepared for the problem within the American Hockey League, or what else may be. However we imagine in what we’re attempting to do from a developmental course of. No one is extra invested of their growth than we’re, so when we’ve proficient younger gamers like him, Rosen and Kisakov, we might moderately be those growing them than trusting that to anyone else who’s not affiliated with our group.”
Twice, Sabers Common Supervisor Kevyn Adams tried to commerce up within the first spherical to pick out Kulich, starting with choose No. 17. A deal did not materialize, although, forcing Adams and his hockey operations employees to sit down and hope that the Czech heart can be obtainable when Buffalo was on the clock once more that night time in Montreal.
To the shock of those that watched Kulich on the IIHF Below-18 World Championship, Kulich fell all the best way to the Sabers at 28 general. Appert is aware of as properly, or higher, than anybody easy methods to correctly consider a participant’s efficiency on the match. He was a part of Workforce USA’s teaching employees at two Below-18s, together with as its head coach in 2018. Appert was “blown away” by Kulich’s efficiency.
As captain of Czechia, Kulich was named match MVP after main all gamers in targets (9) and factors (11) throughout six video games.
“Fairly frankly, I used to be stunned he fell to the place he fell,” Appert added. “After which he felt much more that method at growth camp. Most objective scorers at that younger of an age do not play very laborious. That is the truth. They simply do not. They do not know easy methods to work. They do not know easy methods to go forecheck, be accountable defensively, as a result of they have been the perfect gamers on their groups their complete life they usually rating so many targets that they are allowed to get away with issues. He has a piece ethic, and a so-called B sport about him. That additionally provides us plenty of confidence about bringing him over right here this yr, that he will not be overwhelmed.”
Kulich is completely different, although. He proved once more final month on the IIHF World Junior Championship, which options the highest Below-18 gamers on the earth, that he can win puck battles and earn house within the offensive zone towards older, stronger competitors. His eight factors in seven video games had been tied with Canadian prospect Jan Mysak, 20, for the staff lead.
Nonetheless not sure the place he’ll play this season, Kulich advised reporters that his focus is on bettering “day-after-day” to attempt to attain the NHL. “Yeah, that is my objective,” he mentioned. Kulich, in contrast to most prospects of his age, seems to have the mandatory energy. Listed at 6-foot, 170 kilos, I’ve performed 57 professional video games in Czechia. His adjustment of him will likely be like that of JJ Peterka, who skilled some challenges with the Amerks final season, however via improved protection, he scored 25 video games from January 1 till the top of the season.
“When he will get the puck loads, gamers that we’re speaking about are particular with the puck,” mentioned Appert. “However it’s how good they are often at getting it again that actually begins to ignite their offensive sport.”
Listed below are different observations from the sport:
Lukas Rousek seems to be just like the early favourite to stay round NHL coaching camp longer than anticipated. Once more, Rousek, 23, was a power on the puck under the hashmarks and his passes to the blue line despatched the Devils right into a scramble, together with on Ritchie’s typing objective within the first interval.
Nerves are inevitable for prospects on this occasion. They’re attempting to make a powerful impression, and, in Kisakov’s case, this occasion is his introduction of him to the tempo of the NHL. The 18-year-old winger appeared rather more snug on the ice, notably when he bolted down the left wing to separate from defenseman Reilly Walsh and beat goalie Nico Daws with a wrist shot to the far put up to make it 3-1.
And Savoie lastly broke via offensively when he scored an vital insurance coverage objective to offer the Sabers a 6-4 lead with 6:54 remaining in regulation.
Oskari Laaksonen pushed again within the first interval when the Devils crashed the online after the whistle. It will need to have been a welcome sight for Rochester’s teaching employees, which has pushed Laaksonen to be extra bodily engaged within the defensive zone.
Laaksonen should present administration this season that his growth is trending upward. A 3rd-round choose in 2017, Laaksonen has 51 factors in 99 regular-season video games with Rochester, however he was a wholesome scratch for a lot of the playoffs due to his defensive habits.
“He is aware of that it is a massive season. He is actually purchased in,” mentioned Rochester assistant coach Mike Weber. “And clearly, final yr’s final yr. That is sort of what the messaging has been. And you’ve got a possibility when seasons finish to go and actually work on your self, discover that psychological toughness, work in your energy and your pace and your agility – all these issues – and are available into camp and a brand-new season.”
With winger Josh Bloom (higher physique) unavailable, Lake View native Declan McDonnell drew into the Sabers’ lineup and skated at left wing subsequent to Nolan Burke and Emmett Sproule. McDonnell, 20, additionally skated with the membership in growth camp. He went unsigned by Tampa Bay after his number of him within the seventh spherical of the 2020 draft, regardless of his distinctive play within the Ontario Hockey League.
The Prospects Problem continues Sunday with the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens dealing with one another at Midday in LECOM Harborcenter. The Sabers are scheduled to observe at 10:45 am