By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|Drummondville defenseman Dmitry Kulikov putting on his Panthers jersey after being selected 14th overall in Montreal.
MONTREAL – For Dmitry Kulikov
, there’s no going back.
The 6-1, defenseman, selected by the Panthers in the first-round (14th overall) Friday of the Entry Draft here at the Bell Centre, is determined to make it in the NHL…so determined that he left Russia last season to play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in hopes of being drafted and playing in the NHL.
This weekend he took a huge step toward his dream.
“I know where I’m going. I know my dream,” said Kulikov moments after being drafted by the Panthers. “I want to make it here.”
Named Rookie of the Year in the QMJHL after scoring 62 points (12 goals) in 57 games, Kulikov is projected to be an offensive defenseman who can log a ton of minutes and play a physical and finesse game. Kulikov put those numbers up despite some nagging injuries.
“You know, if the team needs you, you have to play through injuries,” he said. “No matter what, you can’t let teammates down.”
Scott Luce, the Panthers director of amateur scouting, calls Kulikov “smart, driven, determined and passionate.”
“He has an upside that’s very, very high,” Luce said. “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.”
Kulikov, who could have stayed in Russia and played in the KHL, said he will stay in North America. Kulikov could return to Drummondville next season, but several scouts, including Luce, believe Kulikov could find himself in the NHL this fall.
“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.”
Danny Brooks, assistant coach in Drummondville, told NHL.com Kulikov could have made it easy on himself.
“He could’ve made life easy and stayed in Yaroslavl Locomotiv and been a superstar in the KHL,” he said. “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.”
Kulikov, ranked 11th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, is a native of Lipetsk. “It’s a town of about 700,000 people,” said Kulikov of a town which houses one of Russia’s largest steel companies. “They have one hockey rink. Hockey is not that popular there. So I grew up there as a hockey player until I was 11, and then we moved to a different city.”
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.”
ACCORDING TO SCRIPT
The Draft kicked off with few surprises when the Islanders selected scoring-machine John Tavares with the No. 1 pick, the Lightning took big defenseman Victor Hedman with the No. 2 pick, the Avalanche selected Matt Duchene with the No. 3 pick, and Atlanta went with Evander Kane at No. 4.
NHL Central Scouting had Tavares, Duchene and Kane ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 among North American skaters, respectively, while they had Hedman ranked the No. 1 European skater.
Tavares reiterated his desire to play on Long Island.
“You have the opportunity there to start with a young core of guys and grow into the future,” he said. “There’s a great tradition there to bring the winning tradition back to Long Island. That’s what my goal is.”NO BO NEWS
Despite several rumors, Jay Bouwmeester wasn’t moved Friday and assistant GM Randy Sexton said before the Draft the Panthers still have time to move the defenseman.
Sexton said Bouwmeester told him what his “criteria” was of teams he wouldn’t mind being moved to. “If we end up doing something, it would make sense moving him to an area, to a team, he’d like to go to,” Sexton added.
Rumors that Philadelphia was a team interested in acquiring Bouwmeester were shot down during the Draft when the Flyers announced they had acquired Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks.NOTES
Goalie Roberto Luongo announced the Canucks first-round pick (No. 22)…The Islanders didn’t rest with their selection of Tavares. They traded up to 16 with Columbus and then traded that pick and two others to Minnesota for the No. 12 pick. They picked up Calvin de Haan, a defenseman from Oshawa...The host Canadiens chose with the 18th overall selection Louis Leblanc from the U.S. Hockey League…