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Notebook: Kulda going the extra mile

Tuesday, 09.08.2009 / 3:43 PM / Traverse City Prospects Tournament

By NHL.com Staff

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Arturs Kulda feels the time is now to open some eyes and begin his journey in the NHL.

The native of Riga, Latvia, who was hampered by a high ankle sprain that limited him to 57 games with Atlanta's American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago last season, felt it would be in his best interest to join Atlanta's other 22 prospects at this year's tournament.

"He didn't have to come but he wanted to be here to get the work in before our main camp," said Dan Marr, Atlanta's Director of Amateur Scouting and Player Development.

Kulda, who is making his third appearance in Traverse City, has added some strength and quickness to his repertoire and, at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, isn't easy to move off the puck. While he enjoyed his time in Chicago in 2008-09, he is gunning to make the big club out of training camp this year.

"Chicago is great, but Atlanta is better," Kulda told NHL.com. "Playing in Atlanta is my first goal. I think I have taken a huge step forward. I just think the (Prospects Tournament) is a good tournament to get into game shape and be ready for main camp. It's my fourth year here so I feel I'm ready to play with the big team."

After being drafted by the Thrashers in the seventh round in 2006, Kulda spent two seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, compiling nine goals and 45 points in 113 games. At the end of the 2007-08 campaign, he joined Chicago for five games and remained with the AHL club for 2008-09.

"In my first year, I just came from Russia and everything was different," Kulda said. "But I like this style of hockey; I like to play physical. I like the smaller rinks."

--Mike G. Morreale

Earning his Wings -- There's nothing like pulling an NHL sweater over your head for the first time, even if your dad once hated playing against the Detroit Red Wings.

Take it from former NHLer Ray Ferraro's son, Landon, a second-round pick by the Red Wings in June and key player for Detroit in the eight-team prospects tournament that began here on Sunday.

"I couldn't stop smiling," Landon gushed. "Five minutes after I put on the uniform, I was still smiling."

Even if Ray Ferraro now makes a living talking a lot about the game on TV, Landon says there's no BS between dad and son.

"He doesn't burden me with stories about how he did it or what he would do in a certain situation," Landon explained. "But he's there for me if I ask for advice."

Ferraro, who had 37 goals in 68 games for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League last season, has shown he can be his own man -- even if he's already noticed the difference playing against professional opposition in only one game here.

"Man strength is a lot different from junior strength," Ferraro said succinctly. "I'm a player who prides myself on being fast, but the coaches were showing me some tips on how to be even quicker off a check -- things I'm going to have to learn."

Ferraro had one assist in Detroit's 6-4 victory over Atlanta on Day 1 of the tournament. When pressed for the best advice Ray has ever given him, Landon says it's all about having fun.

"Enjoy every day. That's what he always says," Landon said, smiling. "I know how much my dad missed playing when he retired. He always tells me to be positive and make the most of every day I have at the rink."

--Larry Wigge

Prospects Tournament leaderboard -- Through two games of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, Aaron Palushaj of St. Louis, Matt Calvert of Columbus and Tomas Tatar of Detroit are each tied for the tournament lead in goals (3) and points (4).

Detroit's Francis Pare leads the tournament with 3 assists, Minnesota defenseman Tyler Cuma has the high of 12 penalty minutes and Atlanta's Evander Kane and Eric O'Dell and Minnesota's Tyler Johnson have unloaded a tournament-leading 10 shots apiece.

Just two goalies, Mike Murphy of Carolina and Andrew Loverock of Columbus, have logged over 100 minutes in net. Murphy (2-0), who stopped 33 shots in a spectacular 5-3 victory over Detroit on Monday, sports a 3.00 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in two appearances.

The tournament resumes on Wednesday with Dallas (0-1-1) playing Columbus (1-1), Atlanta (0-2) playing Carolina (2-0), St. Louis (1-1) playing Minnesota (2-0) and Detroit (1-1) battling the New York Rangers (1-1). The consolation game and championship will be held Thursday at 6 and 6:30 p.m. (ET), respectively.

--Mike G. Morreale

"You can never underestimate how much a smart, young kid can take from the experience of seeing how NHLers prepare and such a fierce competition in the playoffs."
-- Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice

The game is tough enough -- Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice adheres to the theory that players should go out and bust their butts to show what they can do. But he also says there's the danger of over-thinking -- paralysis by analysis, you might say.

When Maurice watched youngsters Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman work out with the Hurricanes in the playoffs last year, he saw plenty of skill and energy from those young prospects.

"You can never underestimate how much a smart, young kid can take from the experience of seeing how NHLers prepare and such a fierce competition in the playoffs," Maurice explained. "In looking at Boychuk and Bowman here, I see kids with greater leg strength and more confidence.

"Based on what I see here, I'm expecting a more relaxed and focused Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman at our main camp."

--Larry Wigge


Quote of the Day

What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.

— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp