(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 9 selection of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 26-27 in Montreal. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting).
|Fresh off a standout rookie season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, defenceman Dmitry Kulikov figures to be a high pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images).
Talk about your ultimate culture shock.
When Dmitry Kulikov made his debut with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, he was faced with much more than just adapting to a new style of hockey in the ice. The 6-foot-1 defenceman from Lipetsk, Russia, also found himself immersed in both of Canada’s official languages.
“My teammates have helped me a lot,” Kulikov told NHL.com when asked about that major need for help in the communication area. “When I came (to North America), I almost didn’t even speak English.”
But Kulikov is a driven young man with a dream so very familiar to any aspiring young player growing up in Canada. He knew this was a move he just had to make.
“I have more opportunity for scouts to see me and without it, I would never get drafted,” said the 18-year-old Kulikov. “Learning the North American style and learning how to play against Canadian players (was very important).”
He’s learned quickly and learned well. Kulikov led all QMJHL defencemen this season with 50 assists and finished second in points with 62. His assist total was also tops among league rookies, while his plus-34 rating was second.
After playing a major role in helping the Voltigeurs reach the Memorial Cup, Kulikov collected a raft of hardware from the QMJHL. Most notably, he was voted the league’s best defenceman, rookie of the year and top pro prospect.
Safe to say he’s adapted rather well to the North American game.
“He’s a multi-faceted defenceman who can play any way you want to play it,” Drummondville assistant coach Danny Brooks told NHL.com. “You want to play a finesse game? He can play it. You want to play physical? He’s going to get physical because he can take a hit.
“He’s a North American player who happens to have a Russian last name.”
Scouts also raved about a player who saw his final ranking among North American skaters rise to No. 11 in the eyes of the NHL Scouting Bureau. In overall ratings produced by International Scouting Services (10th) and The Hockey News
(11th), he is considered Top 10 pick material. That’s right in the neighbourhood of the first-round selection (ninth) held by the Ottawa Senators.
"I have more opportunity for scouts to see me and without it, I would never get drafted. Learning the North American style and learning how to play against Canadian players (was very important)." - Dmitry Kulikov
“In his first year (in the QMJHL) he’s been an all-around good player,” said NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau. “He’s a great skater; he can carry the puck and shoot the puck well. 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 defence first, but recognizes the holes. He can shoot the puck well on the power play… I would say right now he’s got a good chance of playing (in the NHL) next year, the way he handles himself.”
That would certainly sit well with the 6-foot-1, 183-pound Kulikov, who clearly has a future in the NHL on his mind. In great part, it’s why he made the jump to Drummondville and the QMJHL in 2008-09.
“He could’ve made life easy and stayed with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv and been a superstar in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League),” said Brooks. “But his dream is to play in the NHL and bring his family from Russia to North America.”