Welcome to the 2021-22 season review and 2022-23 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 season and previewing the 2022-23 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.
Brett Kulak was quite simply one of the Edmonton Oilers’ most important deadline acquisitions ever. While it may not jump out too much given that he largely played in a third pairing role after he was picked up from Montreal in exchange for a 2022 2nd round pick and defenceman William Lagesson.
Kulak fit like a glove on the Oilers backend alongside Tyson Barrie and really helped settle down his game. In 18 regular season games, Kulak scored two goals and eight points, chipping in another five assists in 16 playoff games.
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While his game isn’t flashy, his strength lied in the fact he’s a tremendous complementary player. When he joined the Oilers, he said he was the type of player that can play off of any partner, however they need it. Playing with Barrie, Kulak took a defence-first approach which helped open up his partner to generate more offence.
When Kulak was thrust into a first pairing role late in the year with Darnell Nurse injured, he was paired with Cody Ceci and looked great. Kulak took over the offensive workload, and filled the role quite well.
Now, the Oilers have him locked up for four more crucial years.

The analytics

5×5, in EDM
TOI
G – A – P
CF
CA
CF%
SCF
SCA
SCF%
GF
GA
GF%
xGF
xGA
xGF%
PDO
Individual
272:28
2-4-6
283
220
56.26
123
108
53.25
16
12
57.14
13.91
9.98
58.22
100.9
Per/60
15:08/gp
.44-.88-1.32
62.32
48.45
27.09
23.78
3.52
2.64
3.06
2.2
Per/60, RelTm%
0.02
-14.05
6.34
-3.63
-7.8
3.95
.62
-.07
5.42
.15
-.84
9.31
The numbers are tremendous for Kulak. With him on the ice, the Oilers not only push play offensively, they also shut things down in the defensive zone. Relative to his teammates, nobody had better suppression rates when it came to shot attempts and scoring chances and was second in suppressing expected goals against.
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His isolated impacts chart shows a strong player, too. While his numbers don’t jump out offensively with a three percent rate below league average, he contributes defence at a staggering 10 percent rate better than league average.
Kulak’s strength continue to be in the defensive zone where he’s incredibly efficient at breaking up the cycle and moving the puck up the ice.

Looking ahead…

I don’t think it can be overstated how important Kulak is going to be for this defence moving forward. He’s likely to slot in on the Oilers’ second pair alongside Evan Bouchard and that’s a pairing that I think could be a force next year.
Bouchard’s game will take a step in the right direction, and Kulak should be a piece that will help in that, too. He can play that defence first game that could allow Bouchard to activate more offensively, while still being able to cover up for some of the youngin’s mistakes.
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No matter how you cut it, the four-year, $2.75-million AAV deal the Oilers inked Kulak to is an absolute steal even if he’s an elite third pairing defenceman.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]

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