The following article was posted on www.plymouth.wickedlocal.com featuring former Colagte defenseman Jake Kulevich.
by Joe McConnell
Jake Kulevich signed another one-year contract with the Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate, last month on July 16 as an unrestricted free agent. The 6-foot, 3-inch defenseman naturally wants to get that call from the parent club, but he considers just playing pro hockey at this stage of the game is also a privilege, and he takes nothing for granted.
Kulevich played in 29 games last year with the Condors, and had two goals and six assists as a defensive defenseman. He also played two games last year for the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, where he accounted for one assist, before returning to California to play in two more games for the Condors.
While playing in a summer league in Foxboro and training with his lifelong friend Doyle Somerby (the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets own his rights) back here in Marblehead the last few weeks to get ready for the Oilers’ camp next month, Kulevich still found time to answer the following questions on his progress as a pro in the ensuing text for the Marblehead Reporter and Wicked Local Marblehead.
How do you think you are progressing in your pro career? Any inkling when you might crack the Oilers lineup this season? What has management told you about your progress?
I am happy with how I have progressed since turning pro. I was lucky to be a part of a great team and staff last year, where the culture really emphasized growth and development.
I had a good end of the year meeting with management. I don’t like to focus on results or player comparisons or anything like that. Obviously, I want to climb the ladder, but it’s still a privilege to be playing pro hockey, and I try to be mindful of that as much as possible.
I find I am at my best on the ice when I string days together, where I truly love the game, and not getting caught up on self-centered ambitions.
What have you been doing this summer to get ready for camp? Is there anything you are working on to get better at your craft?
I train with Doyle Somerby (a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect) here in town at MFC. He’s one of my lifelong best friends, and it’s a treat still being able to train together in the summers.
My cousins, Matt and Kyle Koopman, are also home with us half the summer, so we have a tight group in there. I also skate with a group at Harvard a few days a week, and also play in the Foxboro Pro League on Wednesday nights, which is really great. Tons of talented NHL and AHL guys down there, and it’s a great pace for summer games.
I try to work on things down there that I typically wouldn’t do in a regular season game, and I’m certainly always trying to learn more about my personal game and grow as a player.
What and who keeps you motivated in pursuit of your dream?
My family is my biggest motivator. Hockey can get heavy at times, and their unconditional support and love reassures me of what matters. I’m definitely chasing a dream, but doing good work is sufficient enough for me. That’s how you stay motivated in late February when things might not be going your way. The hockey season is a roller-coaster, and taking pride in trying to do the right thing each day is the best way to ride it.
What’s life like in the AHL?
The league is really incredible. It’s flooded with so many young talented players that will eventually become NHL players. Each day is a challenge, and it’s a work environment that I truly cherish.
Off the ice, I have made great friendships. When you compete with a group of people at such a high level over the course of a season, you create strong bonds.
What do you miss most about being away from home for at least nine months every year?
My family – I didn’t see my sisters for nine months, and that was tough. I definitely miss Marblehead too, and everything this town has to offer in the summer. I’ve really tried to maximize my time by the water. I’m still waiting for my cousin Ben Koopman to invite me on his boat. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the paddle boards.
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