KULICH MAKES IMPRESSIVE, IMPACTFUL DEBUT FOR SABRES AT PROSPECTS CHALLENGESep 18, 2022
By Suzie Cool
There’s potential that forward Jiri Kulich could be centering a line with the Rochester Americans or Buffalo Sabres this season. We saw that in the Sabres’ second game of this year’s Prospects Challenge last night, as Kulich was the anchor point between forwards Lukas Rousek and Isak Rosen.
After missing the first game of rookie camp, Kulich’s performance last night against the New Jersey Devils did not disappoint. Buffalo’s first-round selection (28th overall) of the 2022 NHL Draft showed his ability to help set up plays with two assists on the night and dunked in an empty-netter to give Buffalo a little buffer in a 7-4 win over the Devils, moving the Sabres to 2-0 in the tournament.
“We take precautionary measures early,” commented Amerks head coach Seth Appert when asked why Kulich was given the green light for yesterday’s game after missing the first portion of Prospects Challenge. “He was a little sore from something he came into camp with and that was aggravated in some of the testing and things like that. But upon a second review, and a more in-depth look from our medical team, he was deemed that there's no issues at all.”
The 2021-22 season marked Kulich’s first year in the pro ranks in the Czech League with Karlovy Vary HC, where he appeared in 49 games while recording nine goals and five assists. Kulich’s 14 points were more than any other junior-aged player in the league.
The experience that Kulich got from the Czech League has helped add a swagger to his game that allows him to go on the ice and make his own decisions, even here at his first go-around in North America.
“He has a great swagger about him. It's not arrogance at all, but there's a real swagger and belief that he carries around,” started Appert when asked about getting the potential chance to coach Kulich in Rochester this season. “He’s an elite player. Carries himself like that. Looks like it on the ice. Accepts coaching. But you also know he he's going to make his own decisions out there, which is good. You want players, you're going to coach them, but then they're going to go on the ice and they have to make their own decisions, they have to play. They're the players. The game is theirs and he has that.”
Most notably, Kulich dominated at both this year’s U-20 and U-18 World Junior Championships. In the U-20 event, Kulich appeared in seven games, totaling eight points. While serving as the captain for Czechia at the U-18 World Junior Championships, Kulich was named the tournament MVP after notching a tournament-high nine goals in six games.
The most impressive part of Kulich’s game currently? The forward’s “scary” shot.
“It's scary,” Appert laughed off when asked about Kulich’s shot. “Some guys shot just comes off differently. His shot gets off his stick so much quicker. You know, a lot of times when guys are really hammering a pocket, it's a big wind up and they're putting everything into it. And he just seems to be able to just kind of do that, you know?”
Kulich recently signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres almost immediately after the draft on July 15, 2022. More than likely, we’ll see Kulich centering a line in Rochester, unless he continues to impress at Prospects Challenge and when Sabres Training Camp kicks off later this week.