Q&A with Tomas Kudelka

By Holly Gunning

Defenseman Tomas Kudelka is a rookie in the Ottawa organization this year, having been drafted in the fifth round by the club in 2005.  He has played most of this year with the ECHL Elmira Jackals, who are located just 45 minutes from the AHL Binghamton Senators.

The 6’1, 195-pounder has two goals and six assists in 11 games with Elmira, to go along with no points in two games for Binghamton.  He played his junior hockey for the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes, joining Binghamton at the end of the year both years for a taste of pro hockey. It total, he’s played 18 AHL games.

Elmira coach Steve Martinson said of the 20-year-old, "He brings a lot of offense.  He’s got a hard shot, and he’s getting more defensive experience and that’s what he’s been working on. As a rookie, he’s getting a lot of ice time and doing a great job of it.  A real good young guy.

"He logs power play and penalty kill.  He’s been a help to our power play.  When (Scott) May was here, we worked the shot more from his side, and we started out about 28 percent or so. Now we’re working it more from the other side. Hopefully we’ll get May back at some point [from Manitoba]."

As far as how long Kudelka would stay with Elmira, Martinson said, "you never know. They kind of rotate guys in, so if he’s doing well, they’ll send somebody else down to get ice time and bring him up. That’s the expectation."

Kudelka is fitting in well with the team, and took advantage of being in the big city before they played the Gwinnett Gladiators, who are located in the Atlanta suburbs.

"He went shopping today and bought a couple $70 t-shirts I understand, so he must have a good contract," Martinson joked.

Hockey’s Future talked to Kudelka after Elmira’s 4-3 win over the Gladiators on Tuesday night, in which Kudelka score a goal from the point that put Elmira ahead for the first time late in the game.

HF: Some game-winning goal you scored there.

TK: Yeah, I think it was a lucky goal. A good screen in front of the net. It doesn’t really matter about my goal, we won a big game.  We had a great, great, road trip and it was a big win for us.

HF: How do you feel like the transition to pro hockey is going for you?

TK: It was kind of a tough start for me because I hoped I would make the AHL team. But I’m here right now and we’ve got a great team, a great bunch of guys and a good coach.  We’re just going out every single night and playing hard.  It’s kind of different because you’re playing against older guys, bigger guys. Every single game is a new experience for me. I go game by game.

HF: Do you feel that the strength is the hardest thing for you?

TK: Oh yeah. It’s my disadvantage because I weigh just 195 lbs. Maybe it’s one of the reasons why I’m here. I’m skilled enough to play in the A, I just have to get bigger and play with big guys.

HF: You’re playing a lot of minutes, how are you handling it, are you tired?
TK: I’m used to playing a lot.  And it’s why I’m here. They told me that for me, it’s better to play here a lot than be a fifth or sixth D there and play a couple shifts because I need to play PP and PK.  It’s good.  I’m tired after games, and it’s a good feeling especially after a win.

HF: When you were up in Binghamton earlier this year, how much did you play?
TK: From the start I played in the first game.  I was there another two weeks. Then they told me they feel like I need to play more. So they sent me down. Then a D got hurt, so they called me up for another two weeks. Before this road trip, they told me they want me to play games. We played five games in 10 days so it was a good chance for me to get good ice time.

HF: Do you think you’ll be here most of the year?
TK: Well I hope not, but if I will be here, I think we’ve got a great team.  For me, the AHL is the league where I want to play this year, you know?  You don’t want to stay here.  You want to move up.  I’m still a young guy.  But I’m not mad I’m here. Because like I said we’ve got a great team, I play a lot, I make some points so that’s good.

HF: You’re living on your own for the first time, how is that going?
TK: For three months I’ve been living in a hotel.  I was in Ottawa for a month for rookie camp, main camp and then they sent me down to Binghamton, that was another month.  Then I was in a hotel in Elmira, because I didn’t know how long I would stay there. Then I finally moved to an apartment, but that night they called me up. So I was another two weeks in Binghamton in a hotel. I don’t really know where I will be right now after this trip. We’ll see if they will call me up or no. I don’t know,  I live day by day and try my best.

HF: So where is your stuff right now?
TK:  All my stuff right now is in Binghamton, I have a bunch of friends there. I packed just for 12 days for the trip. I’m going there [Wednesday] just because I need some clean stuff (laughing). 

HF: Are there a lot of Czechs in Elmira?

TK: Oh yeah.  There’s so many immigrants. My best friend here is Slovakian, but he was born here. He helped me a lot insurance, with a car, apartment, everything. He’s kind of like my brother right now.

HF: How do you know him?
TK: I met him two years ago when I was in Binghamton.  Some Czech players like Michal Barinka, Filip Novak, knew him before. They introduced him to me.

HF: So this guy doesn’t play hockey?
TK: No, not at all. He sells drugs – like normal drugs (laughing).  He’s great to me.

HF: At a pharmacy?

TK: Yeah. So he’s kind of a big deal because he knows everyone in the town. He helped me a lot.

HF: You’re playing with Chris Busby here, how’s that going?
TK: I like him, he’s a good guy, a funny guy. He’s a right-handed shot and he’s like me, he likes to pass the puck. I think we’re playing well.  I think today was not our best game.  He’s older, he’s a little more experienced. I like to play with him.

HF: Does he help you, give you advice?
TK: Sometimes.  I think I have some experiences too, World Juniors, Under-18, I played a couple games in the A.

HF: You were called up to the NHL but didn’t play.  What was going on then?

TK: Yeah, it was after the season last year.  I was in Binghamton and they didn’t make the playoffs. Ottawa called me up and I was there for about two weeks because I had to go home for school. It’s different school than here. But it was a great experience to be there and watch big guys.  I was there during the first round against Pittsburgh. It was unbelievable, just a dream.

HF: Did you practice with them?
TK: We had seven guys from the AHL, so we not practice with them. But we were in the gym with them and it was a good feeling.  They went on the road. I was there for two weeks then I asked if I could go home because I had to finish my school.  Because you never know what’s going to happen in your life. I need one last semester and I’m done with my school. It was kind of tough, especially after that – I watched other rounds and they went to the finals. I was kind of mad (smiling), but school is school and I need some education.

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