SUN Hockey Pool

Hulak's NHL dream

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

There is only one other player at the Edmonton Oilers rookie camp with more points last season.

Another who scored more goals.

Yet Derek Hulak is in Edmonton as a free-agent invitee, looking to earn a spot in main camp.

At best, he's a long-shot for getting a contract offer.

"He had a real good year last year, he played really well on a good team," said Oilers assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast.

"He's one of those kids that might be a little bit of a late bloomer. He has everything you want, does everything well and has pretty good hands. We'll see where it goes.

"It's only Day 1, it's an important week for him -- and for us to look at him."

Hulak, 20, a native of Saskatoon, had 30 goals and 76 points for his hometown Blades last season.

Only rookie camp participants Phillippe Cornet with 77 points, and Jordan Eberle, who sniped 35 goals, were more productive in junior a year ago.

"This is an unbelievable opportunity," said Hulak. "Any time you get a chance to come to a pro camp, it's exciting. This is my first one, so I'm kind of taking it all in, learning what I can from the guys who have been here before.

"The Oilers are a great organization -- I knew that right off the hop. And they've treated me with respect since I got here."

Hulak has spent the last four seasons in the WHL. He captained the Blades to a second-place regular-season finish last year before they were upset in the first round of the playoffs.

"Lorne (Molleken), his coach in Saskatoon, is pretty high on him," Prendergast said.

"Again, they think they're going to have a pretty good team this year and he's going to be a big part of that."

Hulak was part of the Blades' top line last season, with Milan Kytnar and Burke Gallimore. All three are attending the Oilers rookie camp.

Hulak added seven points in the playoffs as the Blades were eliminated in seven games by the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

"It helps knowing a few people coming in," Hulak said. "I also played with Eberle in Regina. There are a few friendly faces around here, which makes it a little easier. But it's been an unbelievable experience so far. I'm just looking forward to the week ahead."

The six-foot, 178-pound winger separated his shoulder as a 17-year-old, and was passed over in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

But with solid offensive numbers and obvious leadership abilities, it was somewhat surprising Hulak had been overlooked as a free agent until the Oilers put in a call two weeks ago.

"I wouldn't say surprising, maybe a little bit frustrating," Hulak said.

"I felt I had a pretty good year but I kind of moved on, knowing that camps were full and whatnot.

"To get a last-minute call it was a dream come true. I always wanted to come to a pro camp.

"I'm going to take everything in stride and enjoy the time that I have here."

If anything, the experience will benefit Hulak if he returns to the Blades this year, which is what he's expected to do.

"I want to get a good experience from this, learn from some of the older guys and try to have my best camp," Hulak said.

"I'm here to try to get my name out there, try to impress a few people and show them what I can do."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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