Almost every time international hockey graces our TV screens the name or Winnipeg Jets prospect Arturs Kulda re-surfaces. This last happened at the Olympics where Kulda had multiple strong showings against NHL talent. These strong showings (among other things) prompted the following article by Gary Lawless: Time To Bring Burmi Back
Kulda was excellent playing for Latvia at the Olympics. He told me he'd only come back if he was given a chance to play in Winnipeg. From what I saw at the Olympics, he's ready for that chance.
Our own HappyCaraT penned the following: Could Latvian defenceman Artus Kulda return to the Winnipeg Jets? where she dealt with the why's and how's of a Kulda return, but neither article really answers the who.
Who is Arturs Kulda and why should the Winnipeg Jets want him back?
Arturs Kulda was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006. He was picked in the 7th round (200 overall). Kulda is 25 years old. He is 6'2 and weighs in at ?? lbs. He is listed at everywhere from 194 to 215 in the internet and I haven't weighed him myself. Regardless, he is big and strong and that is how he plays hockey. That isn't to say Kulda is a big hitter - he plays a strong physical game, but he is physical in the net front and along the walls. He isn't the type of player that will put himself out of position in order to lay a big hit.
But that isn't the whole story. Arturs Kulda has been in the organization and it's player for a long time. Before going pro, he spent two seasons in Peterborough playing for the Petes - largely with Zach Bogosian as his defensive partner. From there Arturs graduated to professional hockey his play earned him an ELC.
After his 2007-08 OHL season, Kulda joined the Chicago Wolves and he was able to play 5 game before they made they playoffs. The coaches loved him and kept him for their playoff run that ultimately resulted in a Calder Cup. He dressed for 21 of 24 playoff games and made a lasting impression. Also on that team were familiar names like Bryan Little and Ondrej Pavelec.
Over the farm team's last couple seasons in Chicago, Kulda's role grew. He logged big AHL minutes and he began to be looked at as one of the Thrashers most likely prospects to graduate. He even earned himself a few very brief NHL looks.
Quotes Though Time:
"He’s close to playing in the NHL in the very near future. Seriously, I wouldn’t have any issue if we had to call him up. No issue at all." ~ Fromer Thrashers GM Don Waddell
"He’s a good player. He’s very strong. He finishes all his checks. He plays a mean style of hockey. He’s a NHL quality player." ~ Zach Bogosian
"He is very strong. When he hits, (opposing players) stay down. His processing ability is above average and that’s very important, because he usually makes the right selection depending on what play is available. He’s gotten to the point now where he can get the puck out of the zone. He can hit the open man. He processes the game much better." ~ Former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley
"I think he’s ready. What he’ll have to do is come in and show that he can be consistently safe and continue to process the play quickly. With many young players, they think they have to make an impact immediately. But what they have to do is show that they can be on the ice and not hurt the team. If he can do that, he can probably play." ~ Former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley
Then Came Relocation
Arturs had new coaches and new GM (his third) that he had to impress again. He did. Kulda logged big minutes for the IceCaps all season and in short order had earned another look from the NHL club. Still, his tryout was brought on by injury and lasted but nine games. This remains his longest NHL stint (15 total games).
Kulda was a clear bubble player, but one who's game fit team need - solid defensive play. Still, he isn't the type of player that will kick the door down. His best games are the ones where he is hardly noticed. He needs ice time to prove his worth. He could stick around and wait, but frankly his services are worth more than he'd get on a standard AHL contract. Has his international experience (very strong play in both Latvia and the KHL) shown that he is NHL ready? Or is his window closed? One has to think the clock is ticking for Kulda as an NHL player.
Does He Fit?
Maybe. There is no doubt that the Jets could afford to improve defensively, but without seeing more of Kulda in the NHL it is hard to say exactly what impact he could have. On the plus side - if he comes back - he should be relatively cheap. Are the Jets best served saving a few bucks and taking a shot on a kid (Kulda) who has some question marks, but also some upside (some have compared his game to that of Willie Mitchell)? Are the Jets better served adding a veteran and proven commodity via free agency. Will Chevy stand pad on the back end? These are the tough questions that only Kevin Cheveldayoff can answer?
Note: Kulda Signed to a two-year contract by Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL on 2013-07-15, whether or not there is an out-clause is unknown.
What would you do? Let us know in the comments section.