The Detroit Red Wings have plenty of prospects to root for. Whether it be a young German defenseman named Moritz Seider or a forward with elite potential in Filip Zadina, there are a lot of guys to like in the Red Wings’ system. There’s one player, though, who I’ve got a serious rooting interest in and that’s goalie prospect, Kaden Fulcher.
In case you’re unfamiliar with him, Fulcher is an undrafted free agent who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Red Wings back in October 2017. He dealt with injuries for most of last season as he played in just two games with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. However, before Fulcher was trying to make his way up the pro ranks, he was making a name for himself in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Starting in the OHL
Fulcher was originally picked 241st overall in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Sarnia Sting. After going 2-0-1 in three games with a 3.30 goals-against average (GAA) and .890 save percentage (SV%) for the Sting in the 2015-16 season, the team shipped him to the Hamilton Bulldogs on Jan. 7, 2016, for fellow netminder Charlie Graham. George Burnett, head coach and general manager of Hamilton at the time, said that Fulcher “has had a great start to his junior career and we look forward to seeing him develop.” It turned out to be a great move for both the player and the team.
The 2017-2018 season would go on to be the best in Bulldogs history as they won a franchise-record 43 games, taking home the Leyden Trophy for winning the East Division in the OHL. Fulcher went 32-17-2 in the regular season, with a 2.86 GAA and a .899 SV%. In the postseason, Hamilton would go 16-5, including winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions in six games over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
During the 2018 OHL Playoffs, Fulcher posted a .905 SV% and a playoff-best 2.70 GAA. With his strong performance in the postseason, the next destination for the Bulldogs would be a trip to Regina, Saskatchewan to compete for the Memorial Cup. It also marked the first time a team from Hamilton would play in the Memorial Cup since the 1976 Hamilton Fincups.
The 2018 Memorial Cup would also be an important event for me as it was the first major sporting event I covered. This was when I was blogging independently as an 18-year-old in high school and had to figure out how to obtain media accreditation. Never in a million years did I believe I would get the chance to cover an event like the Memorial Cup, but two days before the tournament, I was approved by the CHL and was off to Regina the next day.
The first few days I used just to soak up the experience and talk to fellow media members about their experiences. It wasn’t until the third or fourth day that I felt comfortable asking players questions one on one. I was unsure about who I should interview, since I didn’t want to talk to a player who wasn’t interested in chatting with the media. Then, I saw how comfortable Fulcher was in media scrums and figured he’d be the perfect guy to interview.
After a morning skate one day, I requested to speak with Kaden. After practice, he came over in flip flops, shorts, and a polo shirt, which was the perfect look for a hockey player playing with how hot the temperatures were in Regina that week. When we met, I introduced myself and shook hands (the things we got away with pre-COVID) and told him how much of a fan I was.
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I asked him three or four questions, mostly relating to his team and their performance. It went fairly smooth and afterward, chatted for a few minutes with the microphone off. I said I appreciated him taking the time to talk because this was my first time at the Memorial Cup and I was nervous. I’ll always remember his response, saying, “Don’t worry man, it’s my first time here, too. We’re all a little nervous. Just make sure to have a little fun.” What a perfect remark.
The Bulldogs would eventually fall short in winning the tournament, getting eliminated by the Regina Pats in the semifinals. The Hap Emms Memorial Trophy for goaltender went to Fulcher, who led the 2018 Memorial in GAA (2.27) and save percentage (.918). It was the end of a wild junior career, but far from the end of his hockey life as he hopes one day to being a potential starter for the Detroit Red Wings.
Takeaways from a Positive Experience
What I learned the most from the 2018 Memorial Cup is that there are things in life that are bigger than hockey. We’re all working towards something and more often than not, we need other people to help get us where we want to go. I probably wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for someone like him and it had nothing to do with his hockey. It was the fact that he chose to talk and be kind to me the entire time. That’s why I’m rooting for Fulcher and hoping he becomes someone special on the ice.