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Jiri Kulich

Scout: Brandon

Buffalo Sabres 2022 NHL Entry Draft 1st Round Pick

28th Overall Selection by the Buffalo Sabres


  • Very potent and powerful stride that lends to deceptive acceleration, especially from a glide.

  • Quite efficient with his edge work, not flashy for the sake of flash.

  • Not overly explosive but generates linear speed that allows him to get behind defenders or into open ice.

Puck handling:
  • Like his skating, his puck handling is equally elegant and void of over complication.

  • Alleviates pressure by passing the puck into unexpected open areas of the ice for a teammate to pick up, especially on his back hand and with his back to the target.

  • Passes are constructed out of a high degree of finesse as opposed to power or snap.

  • Cannon of a one-timer from the right circle on the powerplay.

  • Puck comes off his stick in a hurry.

  • Uses shots on goal as an engine to create rebounds and chaos.

IQ (vision, offensive and defensive anticipation, panic meter):
  • Reads the ice and the developing plays well.

  • Often seems to have a solution when under attack.

  • Thrives on the PP with the added time and space (adapting to the smaller NA rinks?).

  • Circles back to cover rushing and puck carrying D, even on prolonged pinches in the O-zone.

  • Responsibly one of the first men back to help the D or to back check.

  • Encroaches on the puck carriers time and space without necessarily taking action on them or the puck. This reads as Kulich wanting to remain free to capitalize on a gaff due to the pressure as opposed to over committing on the check.

Best Asset:
  • General finesse and efficiency of movement. Czech army knife.

Biggest Concern:
  • His style can “look” like he isn’t trying as hard as he ought to because his footworks isn’t choppy/busy and he isn’t trying to cram 10 dekes into 1. This might be frustrating to both coach and fan alike at times.

Top Tier Potential (what would elevate him here? Points, shots, hits, blocks):
  • 30-40-70, if on the top unit PP with a skilled play maker, we could see him flirt with PPG and above.

  • He ought to put up a solid amount of shots and I still would like to see him shoot more.

  • Rather low peripherals otherwise.

Most Likely Tier (what will hold him back? Points, shots, hits, blocks):
  • 15-20-35, 3rd line two-way forward with checking assignments. 2nd unit PP.

  • If he isn’t putting up points and shots are limited by ice time, he doesn’t have the current skill set to provide much else statistically.

Stylistic Comparable:
  • Anze Kopitar crossed with Artturi Lehkonen.


Date: 2022-10-29

League: AHL

Team: Rochester

Opponent: Laval

Score: 5-1 Rochester

Notable Stats: 1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 0 HIT, 0 BLK, 15:17 TOI

  • “Paints with a wide brush” when stickhandling. Makes larger, meaningful movements.

  • Could stand to use his frame when doing against a defender. Widen the stance, lower the shoulder and drive with the legs. Though, his style is more hinged on finesse.

  • Can be a bit weak when attempting to poke check the puck away from a puck carrier.

  • Turned an intercepted clearing attempt into a wonderful 2˚ assist via a backhand pass to a teammate entering the zone with some steam.

  • Directs shots on goal for the sake of creating chances off the rebound.

  • Confident and sturdy skater.

  • Like his stickhandling, his stride is efficient and exaggerated as opposed to choppy and busy.

  • Dangerous when he finds an open lane developing while picking up a head of steam to enter the zone.

  • Skating allows him to cover rushing D and be one of the first if not the first men back on the back check.

  • Decent and diligent about pressuring the puck carrier in the D-zone.

  • Could stand to commit to checking his target as opposed to willing a turnover to happen and being available to fully capitalize on the loose puck.

Decision Making/Panic Meter/IQ:
  • Heads up read to know when to sprint out of the zone and get behind the D to pick up a pass off the boards in the neutral zone that lead to an empty net goal.

  • Very patient in picking his spots and time to activate fully.

Standout skill today:
  • Creative puck movement.

What was missing today?:
  • Would like to see him shoot more, especially the one-timer on the power play from the right circle.


Date: 2023-01-25

League: AHL

Team: Rochester

Opponent: Wilkes Barre-Scranton

Score: 3-2 Rochester

Notable Stats: 0 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, 0 HIT, 1 BLK, 18:37 TOI

  • Made a lateral onetouch pass off the half wall in the D-zone to the right D that allowed the D to break the puck out, while under pressure.

  • Adept at alleviating pressure by finding teammates to pass to who have extra space and time.

  • Picked up a 2˚ assist by scooping up a rebound and dishing it to the point who set up a shot from the right side for the goal.

  • Labels most of his passes with finesse rather than pure power/snap.

  • Not often the primary puck carrier or driver of offense.

  • Very hefty one-timer on the PP from the right circle.

  • Strong acceleration.

  • Very comfortable skater, though not overly flashy or technical.

  • Not exactly the fastest or most explosive but has a high drive to his skating.

  • Gets in close to the puck carrier to take away space and time, though doesn’t always commit to taking either the puck or body.

  • Circles back to cover D who decide to rush the puck up the ice and even into extended pinches in the O-zone.

Decision Making/Panic Meter/IQ:
  • Seems to spend a fair amount of time in the spaces between plays, waiting for the right moment to strike.

  • Stretches the neutral zone by giving stretch pass options and pull attention to him instead of the players breaking out.

  • Benefits from having more time and space on the ice during the PP.

Standout skill today:
  • Skating strength and acceleration.

What was missing today?:
  • Driving play and wanting the puck at 5-on-5.


Date: 2023-03-29

League: AHL

Team: Rochester

Opponent: Cleveland

Score: 3-2 Cleveland

Notable Stats: 1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, 0 HIT, 0 BLK, 14:20 TOI

  • Attempted a no-look, backhand, centering pass in tight to the net.

  • Made decisive, simple, low-risk passes that progressed the play.

  • Doesn’t play a flashy game with his hands or the puck.

  • Puts pucks in unexpectedly open spaces, especially off the backhand.

  • Efficient release with a fast shot.

  • Opponents see his shot as a threat and this opens up other passing options for him.

  • Blast of a one-timer from the right circle for a goal.

  • The torque that he has from a glide allows for a deceptively quick acceleration.

  • Very efficient stride.

  • Can be selective when making stick checks.

  • Hustles back to help out after turnovers or rush chances against.

Decision Making/Panic Meter/IQ:
  • His vision allows for him to see developing plays.

  • Dependable zone entries.

Standout skill today:
  • One-Timer with a hat tip to passing

What was missing today?:
  • Was generous at times with passing and could have opted to take a few more shots on goal.

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