Kulak spent the first 19 games of the season with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League before being recalled November 22. And since then, he has played 21 NHL games.
Against the St. Louis Blues, Kulak was paired with Jordie Benn for the majority of the game, and he has proven to be a great asset on a bottom-four pairing for Montreal since Victor Mete took his spot next to Shea Weber. He has a goal and three assists this season and the game against the Blues showed why Kulak is valuable.
Every Blues forward played at least two minutes of five-on-five against Kulak on Thursday except for Brayden Schenn (1:49), Robert Thomas (0:42), and Mackenzie MacEachern (0:33). Kulak still ended up with a 60% Corsi For percentage (15 shot attempts for, 10 against) for the game, and when he wasn’t on the ice with Benn, he actually was at 100% (10 shot attempts for, 0 against). He was only on the ice for two Blues high danger chances.
The fact is, the Canadiens’ defence is better with Kulak in it. So much so that he has passed Mikey Reilly, David Schlemko, Xavier Ouellet, and Karl Alzner on the depth chart and allowed the luxury for the Canadiens to send Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen to the AHL. His 59.02 Corsi For at 5-on-5 for the season is the best among defencemen on the team.
Kulak isn’t necessarily the answer to be Shea Weber’s partner, but he’s a very solid defenceman and is very good where he is on this Canadiens team, in the four or five conversation depending how you feel about Jordie Benn. When you can feel relatively confident in him no matter who he’s playing against, especially on the road, that becomes a huge asset.
Acquiring Kulak, who is making a positive impact in the NHL, for two players who likely weren’t going to play much for the Montreal Canadiens is another one of the small moves that Marc Bergevin made this year that has worked out better than expected.