After arriving from Russia to play for Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2008-09, Kulikov made an instant impact. He led all defensemen with 62 points in 57 games and was named the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Best Professional Prospect and Defenseman of the Year.
The Florida Panthers were impressed enough to select Kulikov in the first round (No. 14) of the 2009 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut at the age of 18 on Oct. 2, 2009, against the Chicago Blackhawks in Helsinki.