Derek Hulak had a season to remember with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies this year. Following the Canadian Interuniversity Sports national championship, he was offered a tryout with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
The Texas Stars are the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League. On March 27, Hulak made his AHL debut — and scored on his first shot.
March 27 has always been a difficult day for Hulak, as it is the day his mother passed away.
“What made [this goal] so special was that it was on the seven-year anniversary of my mom’s passing. Being able to play my first game with my entire family watching was quite the experience,” Hulak said. “When I scored the goal it turned a typically rough day into a pretty exciting one. It was truly an experience I will never forget.”
Hulak’s latest accomplishment is just one of many on his very impressive resumé. He was this year’s Most Valuable Player of the Canada West division and of the CIS national championship. In the 2011–12 season, he led the Dogs in scoring and in the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons for the Saskatoon Blades.
When he was 16 years old, Hulak began his Western Hockey League career with the Regina Pats and played with them for two seasons. However, his mother was battling cancer at the time and he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible.
Hulak would often make the round trip between Regina and Saskatoon on his days off. Midway through the 2007 season the Pats approached the Blades about trading Hulak closer to home. The deal was arranged shortly after.
Following his mother’s passing in 2007, Hulak remained with the Blades and matured into an exceptional hockey player. He finished his WHL career with 242 points in 267 games.
Although he was not selected in the NHL draft, Hulak played out the remainder of his junior hockey eligibility with the Blades. He then signed with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League, but after just 21 games with Tulsa, he joined the U of S Huskies — the rest is history.
Totalling 123 points in just 87 games, Hulak has been the catalyst for the Huskies success all season long — especially at the University Cup. He had four goals and two assists in the three game tournament to guide the team to the championship game.
Head coach Dave Adolph had very high praise for Hulak, calling him the best player he had ever coached in his 21 seasons with the Huskies. Graduating captain Brennan Bosch told the StarPhoenix, “He’s a heck of a hockey player. Ever since he came to our team he’s led us year in and year out.”
Sadly, Hulak has played his final game with the Huskies hockey team. Suiting up for a single professional game voids his CIS eligibility, meaning he will not be allowed to play in his last eligible year.
The Huskies are sure to miss Hulak’s talent as well as his leadership next season. Hulak was an alternate captain this season and would have been a front-runner to be the ‘C’ in the fall.
The Texas Stars have already clinched a playoff spot in the AHL, meaning Hulak will get to showcase his skills for a while longer. A strong showing could mean a full time contract with the Stars, and one step closer to playing in the NHL.
Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor