After winning the MVP award of the Memorial Cup, the Latvian Forward Edgars Kulda has been drafted 193rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes. In this translated interview, originally written by Andrei Matseroga , Kulda talks about the NHL draft, the rookie camp with the Arizona Coyotes, and discusses life in the WHL.
– Edgars, not long ago you participied to the Coyotes rookie camp. How hard it is with NHL coaches?
– Theoretically speaking we didn’t underwent anything particular practice. We pretty much spent three days on the ice, playing among us. I understand that the coaches want to test us physically and see who can be closer to be NHL ready. Of course it has been great to be there. The club has got a serious system and they try and get much advantage from their young players.
– Was it easier to you as you had two former team mates, Henrik Samuelsson and Dysin Mayo, skating with you at the rookie camp?
– Of course it’s good to have someone you know with you, when you step into a new place. It helped me getting used to everything during the rookie camp. Moreover, another two guys joined us, Ashton Sautner and Mads Eller, so we had an entire five-men unit from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
– Some players in the Coyotes system during the interviews say that playing hockey there is something unreal. Is it hard to get into hockey mood when outside it’s +100°F?
– Oh, yes! After Edmonton is like getting to a resort. But on the other hand, ice is ice everywhere, and hockey is hockey everywhere. So you don’t have to do anything special.
Memorial Cup MVP
– Was it pleasant to know that you are the first Oil King to ever receive the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy? If it’s not a secret, who called you first after that?
– Of course it has been pleasant! But I’m not one of those guys who try hard to win individual awards or something like that. It was much more important to win the Memorial Cup. Let’s say that the MVP title has been a nice bonus. The first to call me was my father. The whole family congratulated with me. The called me from Jurmala, of course they followed the game online.
– Your team won the Cup last in th 1966. Was it important for the city?
– It’s super important! For the whole season the Oil Kings had a great support from their fans. Just as a team who won the Stanley Cup, we had a parade through the city. A lot of people participied, including the former mayor Stephen Mandel and the Governor of Alberta Donald Ethell. Junior hockey in Canada it’s not just kids who play, everyone loves following it.
– You were the MVP of the Memorial Cup. Maybe you thought to be picked higher, then you falled down quite a bit. Do you know why? Were you disappointed to get picked only 193rd?
– Before the draft there are always a lot of predictions about who gets picked when. Of course I had a look of those. According to some predictions I should have picked at the second round. Of course you always hope to get picked high, but they picked me at the seventh round, and let it be. I’m very happy to be a part of the Arizona team anyway. I think I slipped down to the seventh round due to my age.
– Your older brother Arturs was picked 200th by the then-alive Atlanta Thrashers. Did you joke with him about it?
– What do you think yourself? Of course we joked a lot and finally I could get before of him in something.
– Maybe talking about other NHL teams isn’t very correct right now, but maybe you hoped to get picked by a Canadian team?
– I wouldn’t say that I had any preference. I only wanted to get drafted.
– In your first WHL season you scored 17 points in 64 regular season games, but on the playoffs 14 in 22. In the 2014 playoffs you scored 22 points. That is 0.84 points per game in elimination games. Do you really prefer playoff hockey?
– Playoff games are important to any hockey player. You’re there for the Cup. Elimination games are special, more pressure, the most important games of the season. I love it. I really enjoy what you can feel during playoff games and that’s probably why I could play so well in the Memorial Cup.
– Your game in the first season and the second season is really something different. The second season has been much better. What did you change in the summer preparation and how are you using it now?
– I need to work on each aspect of my game anyway. On both physical and technical plan. I try not working on one aspect only. I’m gonna use this summer like the past one. Why should I change something that works?
Life in the WHL
– As a forward you faced many defencemen in the CHL. Who was the toughest to play against?
– London’s coach is Dale Hunter and his teams are always tough. There are other teams from your league who gave the Oil Kings more problems than others?
– I can say the Portland Winterhawks, we play against them in the finals for three years. And the series are always great. I can also name the Calgary Hitmen, it’s one of the most interesting rivalries in the league, the Battle of Alberta.
– After hockey let’s talk a bit about everyday life. Everyone knows that juniors in Canada live with families.
– Yes, and I was very lucky with them. They cared about me and I was very happy. Moreover, they cooked great. Thanks for that!
– Maybe when you were grewing up you had a favorite player and you wanted to be like him.
– Oh, I won’t be original here: my favorite player was Pavel Datsyuk. But I’m not too sure that my style of play resembles his own style.
– In your team there were no Latvians, nor Russians. Did you try and keep talking with any of the Russian-speaking players from your league?
– I always talk with the guys from Latvia. We grew up together, I played with many of them and we have a lot to talk about.
– What can you suggest to any other European player who gets to play in the CHL?
– The most important thing is the perseverance. Before getting here you have to understand if you’re ready to battle. If you’re mentally ready. If so, then you can cross the Atlantic, play here and get a lot of success.