With the NHL Draft just two weeks away, one eligible player who’s garnered a lot of attention lately is Edgars Kulda.
Edgars Kulda is a 19-year-old Latvian left winger currently playing for the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. He helped lead the team to a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup this season, and now he’s looking to get drafted by an NHL club later this month.
NHL Central Scouting ranked Edgars Kulda 145th in their final rankings. He may not be in the top 30, but he is still considered a top prospect by many, and could end up going much higher than he’s currently ranked, particularly if teams were paying close attention to the Memorial Cup. After all, the final rankings were released prior to Kulda’s stellar performance in the tournament.
This season was Kulda’s second in the WHL and second with the Oil Kings. After scoring just 17 points in 64 games in his rookie season, he boosted his offense this season; he ended up with 30 goals and 30 assists for 60 points in 66 regular season games and finished the year a plus-34.
Kulda also had 22 points (10-12) in 21 playoff games with the Oil Kings, who headed to London after winning the WHL championship.
Overall, he finished the Memorial Cup tournament with four goals and three assists in five games, including one goal in the longest game in Memorial Cup history, a triple-overtime victory for the Oil Kings to allow them to go onto the Cup final game against Guelph, which Edmonton won 6-3.
Kulda was named MVP, and Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal noted that he stepped up greatly during the tournament.
Aside from his experience in the WHL, Edgars Kulda has plenty of experience on the international stage. Over the years, he’s appeared in U-17s, U-18s and U-20s for Latvia. This year, Latvia was in Division 1, Group A, competing against Austria, Belarus, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.
Latvia finished second in the tournament, winning four of five games and scoring 23 goals to just seven allowed. Edgars Kulda had one goal and six assists in the tournament.
Denmark finished first in the tournament with an undefeated 5-0 record.
If the Sabres did select Kulda, he would join fellow Riga native Zemgus Girgensons in the blue and gold — making Buffalo the lone team in the NHL to currently have two Latvian players on their roster.
Provided he gets chosen by a team, Edgars will not be the first Kulda to come to the NHL.
His older brother, Artūrs Kulda, was selected 200th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006. He played just six games with the Thrashers, spending most of his time in the AHL. He also appeared in nine games for the Winnipeg Jets in the 2011-12 season but currently plays overseas in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
This will be Kulda’s second time entering the NHL draft. He was not selected in last year’s draft after his less-than-impressive rookie season – but that can also be partly attributed to the adjustment of playing in North America after having lived in Latvia for so long.
Kulda could get a serious look heading into this year’s draft, and some predictions have him going as early as the second or fourth rounds, so we’ll have to wait and see exactly where he winds up at the end of this month — and I’m sure it will be Kulda Approved.