Marblehead native Jake Kulevich is ready to prove that he belongs in the NHL. After getting his feet wet as a defenseman in both the ECHL and the AHL last season, the Marblehead High and Colgate University product now has a good base of knowledge to work with as he prepares for his second full professional season.
“I was happy with how last year went on the whole,” Kulevich, 25, said. “It was obviously a big jump from college to the pros, and it really made me realize how much you have to do all of the right things off the ice as well as on the ice to be successful out there. I had a couple injuries early on that derailed me a bit, but we had a great rehab staff in Manitoba and I was able to finish the season strong.”
After helping lead Marblehead to a Division 3 state championship as a team captain in 2011, Kulevich played at Colgate for four seasons. He played in 150 games in his time in upstate New York, recording 15 goals and 45 assists in that timeframe. After playing eight games with the Jacksonville Icemen of the ECHL, Kulevich signed a contract with the Manitoba Moose — the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets — where he played for just over a year.
Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago, July 13, when Kulevich signed a contract with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. An affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, the Condors had defensive issues last season and brough Kulevich in to battle for a roster spot.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity I got with Manitoba, it was great there and I really learned a lot,” said Kulevich. “I learned how to take care of my body off the ice and started to get used to the grind of professional hockey. Now coming into camp with Edmonton, I’m just going to show off my work ethic. I’m going to keep my head down, work hard and be competitive out there to show my worth.”
In order to prepare for the grueling season that comes with being a professional hockey player, Kulevich has had to rethink some things in terms of how he prepares his body to play. After getting a taste of the action for the past year and a half, he has a better idea of how to do that.
“I’m working every day, usually four days a week off the ice and three or four days a week on the ice,” Kulevich said. “I’ve been doing a lot more band work and stretching than I’ve ever done in my life, which is a part of the maintenance work to be able to stay out on the ice. It’s not just going out and lifting a lot of weight anymore, I’m balancing it all out.”
Nearly all of that work is being done at home in Marblehead this summer. Kulevich has a fellow professional to work out with in his good friend and fellow Marblehead native Doyle Somerby, who’s getting set to play this season with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL.
“Doyle is a great friend, and it’s great to be able to work with him all summer,” said Kulevich. “We’re competitive with each other and we push each other every day, and I think it is going to make both of us better in the long run.”
Now, for Kulevich, all the hard work and preparation will be put to the test at Oilers training camp. Kulevich is set to report to Edmonton September 5, and he knows that standing out amongst a group of great players is going to take a lot of work and a lot of focus.