By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|Drummondville defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was selected by the Cats with the 14th overall selection in Montreal.
MONTREAL – Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov
, who left Russia for Canada to realize his dream of playing in the NHL, took a step closer to that dream Friday evening when the Panthers selected him in the first round (14th overall) of the Entry Draft here at the Bell Centre.
“Smart, determined and passionate,” were the words Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting, used to describe Kulikov.
Named Rookie of the Year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) after scoring 62 points (12 goals) in 57 games, the 6-1, 185-pound Kulikov is projected to be an offensive defenseman who can log a ton of minutes and play a physical and finesse game.
“He has an upside that’s very, very high,” said Panthers director of amateur scouting Scott Luce. “He brings a lot of very good, above average skills to the table and I think the combination of those skills will allow him to be a significant top four defenseman in the NHL.”
In fact, Kulikov is one of a few players coming out of this Draft that could find himself in the NHL next season.
“Kulikov would be a bubble guy to play next season,” Luce said. “He may be able to crack our lineup depending on the organization’s depth at that position. He very much wants to play in the National Hockey League as soon as he can. He’s an offensive defensive with good defensive instincts. He has the green light to go, like to carry the puck and pinch. This player is a driven hockey player.
Kulikov, playing his first year for Drummondville in the QMJHL after leaving Russia, was also named Defensive Rookie of the Year, Best Professional Prospect and Defenseman of the Year. Previously, he helped Russia to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships, recording four assists.
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau said Kulikov was “an all-around good player” his first season in QMJHL.
“He’s a great skater; he can carry the puck and shoot the puck well,” he added. “He’s strong, too. He can take big hits and they don’t seem to bother him. What we saw this year is likely what we are going to see from Kulikov in the future; he’s going to play the same way in the NHL. He knows when to join the rush, he plays defense first, but recognizes the holes. He can shoot the puck well on the power play and I wouldn’t be surprised if he played in the NHL next year.”
Said Drummondville assistant coach Danny Brooks: “He could’ve made life easy and stayed in Yaroslavl Locomotiv and been a superstar in the KHL. But his dream is to play in the NHL and bring his family from Russia to North America….He’s a North American player who happens to have a Russian last name.”FAVORITES
NHL Team: Detroit Red Wings
NHL Player: Montreal’s Andrei Markov
Movie: American Pie
Artist: Timati (Russian)
Book: The Master and Margarita
Pump up song: “Animals Ground” by Nickelback
Sport (other than hockey): Soccer, Basketball
Activity away from the rink: Training
Place to shop: The Mall at St. Bruno, Montreal
Place to visit: Greece