I don’t know about you, but Saturday can’t come fast enough. Just knowing hockey is right around the corner gives me that extra boost in my day. Maybe that’s just me, but either way I’m sure there are others out there who feel the same as I do.
As most of you know, the Florida Panthers have been trying to add a little more offense to this squad. After finishing 27th in the league last year in scoring, the Panthers have kept most of their core together, but have added a little more depth to the mix. One thing is for sure, last year’s defense provided some offense. Brian Campbell finished tied for 2nd in the league with points by a defenseman. Jason Garrison who is now in Vancouver was 3rd among defenseman in goals scored. Although those two were the main offensive contributors throughout the season, a young Russian has the potential to be among the league leaders this season.
Dmitry Kulikov, who came into this season as a Restricted Free Agent has been reported to have signed a 2 year contract with the Florida Panthers about 24 hours ago. Details on the financial side have still not been released due to the fact that Kulikov has not passed a physical examination by the team doctors. Kulikov spent most of the lockout period in Russia playing for his original junior team Lokomotiv. The former 1st round pick although a little sloppy at times on the defensive side of the puck has all the tools to be top defenseman in the league.
Kulikov is coming off a career year scoring 4 goals and 24 assists in only 58 games. Although his 28 points don’t sound too impressive, the fact that he only played 58 games and managed to reach career highs is a very positive sign. Had Kulikov stayed healthy all season, he was on pace to score roughly around 40 points, which would have put him right around 18th or 19th in the league right next to Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers, whom it appears he’s being compared to currently.
The one question mark about Kulikov has to be the fact that over his career, he hasn’t managed to stay healthy all season. Injuries have prevented him from reaching his full potential, but when someone is thrown into the league at the age of 18-19 years old, it’s hard to go a full season without getting injured. Now that Kulikov has about 200 games under his belt, it’s time to prove that he can stay healthy in the NHL.
Other than the injuries the sky is the limit for Kulikov. He has the ability to play on the power play, pinch in at certain times and deliver big hits when needed. He must however make better decisions with and without the puck. His positional play needs to get better, and he needs to have a better vision of the ice and limit his turnovers. Defense is a hard position to play as there are so many intricate parts to learn. With more experience it is hoped that Kulikov will gradually fit into a top role where he can become more dependable.
Signing Kulikov was perfect timing because it seems like the injury bug has already started to take effect on the Florida Panthers. Mike Weaver apparently suffered an injury during the scrimmage on Wednesday so it’s still unsure if he will be ready for the opening week of the season. Erik Gudbranson who was injured in August is likely to miss the first few games as well. Some are saying they want to slow him back into things by starting him in the AHL when healthy. Adding Kulikov really helps the back end especially in a shortened season.
Thank you for reading and please comment if you have any questions or opinions you would like to share with us.
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Thank you. God Bless.