You can see the attitudes and mentality those guys have coming to the rinks, they come dressed, they are all wearing collared shirts, nice jeans, they present themselves more as a pro and I think that’s where I kind of grew up a little bit. - Brett Kulak
CALGARY, AB -- In the spring, Brett Kulak went through what might best be described as a hockey bar mitzvah.
His junior team, the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, didn’t make the playoffs, so the Flames fourth round draft choice from 2012 joined the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout.
For the final month of the AHL season, Kulak saw the maturity needed to reach the next level.
“It just made me mature more as a player from being around them,” said Kulak, the 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenceman from Edmonton. “They are men there.
“I think there were eight guys with kids who are raising families. You can see the attitudes and mentality those guys have coming to the rinks, they come dressed, they are all wearing collared shirts, nice jeans, they present themselves more as a pro and I think that’s where I kind of grew up a little bit.”
It didn’t come as much of a surprise for Kulak, but it was his first chance to get a look of the lifestyle up close.
“You see all the big NHL players in the past like Joe Sakic, and see how professional they are about the sport, you kind of have an idea but when you come in and see it first hand, it really taught me a lot,” Kulak added.
He only appeared in four games for the Heat down the stretch, but felt he was able to adjust to the speed of the AHL, crediting his skating ability to ease the adjustment.
“The other players help out a lot because they are always in the right spot so when you get the puck, there is always someone to make a play too,” Kulak said. “I thought I adjusted well.”
Now he’s going to take that newfound knowledge back to the Giants organization as they try improve on a disappointing 2013 season that saw them earn the first overall draft choice in the WHL Bantam Draft.
“I’ll definitely be able to share some stories to my teammates and I’ll try to bring that mentality and rub off with the rest of my teammates to make us a lot better as a team.”
Kulak’s confident though, that the team is destined to improve in what will likely be his last season in the junior league.
“Our GM made some good moves to bring in players, and I’m really looking forward to next year. We will definitely be better than we were this year. For sure be in a playoff spot.”
Kulak will be expected to play a major role for the Giants after finishing fourth in team scoring last season. In 72 games, he scored 12 goals, 32 assists and 44 points while picking up 34 penalty minutes.