NHL camps learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Bull­dog

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE tpecoskie@thes­pec.com 905-526-3368 | @Te­ri­atTheSpec

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).

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