NHL camps learning experience for Bulldog
There’s an upside to being undrafted, and Luke Kutkevicius is living it.
The Hamilton Bulldogs forward was invited to two NHL development camps this summer — one in Columbus and one in Detroit. That wouldn’t have happened had he not been passed over on draft day. Twice.
Kutkevicius, 19, was on the Central Scouting’s radar in the lead up to the NHL Draft in 2016, his first year of eligibility. He went back into the pool this year and, again, was overlooked.
Then his agent called with good news. The Blue Jackets wanted him at their camp at the end of June. The news got better when, just as he about to leave for Columbus, Detroit picked up the phone.
Kutkevicius was still in Motown when The Spectator reached him late Monday.
“I knew I had a rough season, but I did have my times where I showed what I could do and I think these teams saw that,” he said when asked if he anticipated either of the invites. “I didn’t expect it, but I was hoping for it and I think I did deserve to go to camp.”
After being acquired from Mississauga halfway though the 201516 campaign, the Toronto native showed flashes of potential in his first full season in Hamilton. He was fast and a great skater. He could make plays.
Kutkevicius, however, was limited by his frame. At six-foot-one and 162 pounds, he was susceptible to being bounced off the puck and landed on the third line — sometimes fourth — as a result.
If he’s going to change that, the former OHL second rounder knows he has to bulk up. In fact, has already gained 10 pounds or so this off-season. But he’s capable of more. That’s one of the lessons he’s learned watching the pros in Columbus and Detroit this summer.
“They don’t take days off. I’ve been pretty consistent the past couple years, working out, skating a lot. But definitely seeing this I know I can work a lot harder.”
On top of Kutkevicius, 10 Bulldogs players or prospects were invited to NHL development camps this summer: Reilly Webb and Kaden Fulcher (Detroit), Marian Studenic (New Jersey), Mackenzie Entwistle (Arizona), Matt Luff (Los Angeles), Cole Candella (Vancouver), Will Bitten, Joni Ikonen and Niki Petti (Montreal), and Brandon Saigeon (Edmonton).