Drafted: 2006 7th round (200th overall)
From: Riga, Latvia
Kulda has gone from 7th round pick to on the brink of an NHL job in 5 years. He spent the last 3 full years in the AHL so he is a seasoned pro already and should seamlessly transition to the NHL level. His skating has gone from very fringy to at least playable as an NHLer and while it will never be a plus tool, it allows him to get to where he needs to be on the ice well enough.
The best part of his game is mentally. He’s not a huge player (6’2″, 195 lbs) but knows when to be physical and when to stay back and use his stick. He positions himself well in his own zone and can also start a rush with his passing. His puck handling has been cited as a negative in his game, but he has a pretty heavy shot and there’s nothing terribly wrong with a guy who stays at home, positions himself well, and doesn’t take too many chances.
Kulda will probably end up a poor man’s Zach Bogosian, which won’t seem like much to Jets fans, but he has the potential to get some tough shifts against tough competition and play them fairly well. I see him likely as a second pairing type defenseman.