Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nikolai Kulemin, the Quiet Sniper

On Tuesday night many Toronto Maple Leafs fans took a collective deep breath and said "there's always next year" in unison. But one of the positives this season is the play of Nikolai Kulemin. The stocky Russian who is mostly known for his solid two-way play notched his 30th goal of the season in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.

With other young players like Logan Couture and Michael Grabner in the spotlight and scoring over 30 goals, Kulemin somehow even in Toronto - the hockey media capital of the world - has flown under the radar with little fanfare. Playing on the Leafs top line this year with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski, it is safe to say that Kulemin has scored the quietest 30 goals in the NHL this season.


Still only 24 years old and improving every year, Kulemin has almost doubled his career output in just this season. During his rookie year in 2008-09 he scored 15 goals and had 31 points. The following year after a slow start he finished strong with 16 goals and 36 points. With 1 game remaining this season, Kulemin has 30 goals and 57 points. Another bright spot is being a plus player on a non playoff team, with a rating of +7 this season.  Having James Reimer play the way he has down the stretch has probably overshadowed some of Kuly's offensive output this season, but his strong play and maturity has to be applauded.

One of the things we love about Kulemin that doesn't show up on the scoreboard is he always seems to be in the right place and never out of position. He is strong on the puck and wins most of his board battles down low with his 6"1, 225 pound frame. He is a beast in the corners with his lower body strength and it's always fun to watch physical defencemen take runs at him, and just bounce right off him. Let it be known, Nik Kulemin is a Hoss.

Kulemin has one more year left on his contract that pays him $2.35M a season. He is a steal right now for the team, but I am sure his agent will be looking for a much bigger pay day after next season. He is also the longest serving current Toronto Maple Leaf with 232 games after Brian Burke shuffled the deck before the trade deadline and shipped Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins - Luke Schenn is second on that list with 230 games. Talk about fresh faces for the Leafs.

What do you think is Kulemin's upside?

Could he be a 40 goal guy in the NHL?

11 comments:

  1. Kulemin should reach 30 goals again a season but don't see him being a 40 goal guy.

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  2. I'm so glad I bought a Kulemin jersey this season!

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  3. I want to nominate David Backes for the quietest 30 goal season award!

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  4. Backes scored 30 goals 2 years ago so I wouldn't say he scored the quietest 30 this year.

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  5. Drew Stafford is another guy who has scored 30, but he has been a pretty hyped up scorer the last few years.

    I am glad Kulemin scored 30, but I don't see him scoring 30 ever again.

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  6. Well considering Backes only had 17 compared to Kulemin's 16 last season I thought that merited a little consideration. :)

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  7. Backes is a solid player. The Leafs need a guy that is big and will go to the net like him.

    I also think Matt Moulson should be given some credit here. Back to back 30 goal seasons for a guy nobody wanted.

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  8. Nice post
    I was just saying to some guys at work that I couldn't believe Kulemin has 30 goals this year.

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  9. Nik has been great this year. He has flown under the radar with Grabo and Cmac playing so well.

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  10. Kulie is a solid 2-way player. I don't think we should expect 30 from him every year.

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  11. I always thought the the Leafs were better when Kulemin was playing with Kessel. Kessel needs to have a solid 2way player on his line since he never back checks.

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