Before Monday’s trade deadline passed, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland added some depth and experience to his team’s blueline, acquiring 30-year-old defenceman Dmitry Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils. In exchange, the Devils receive either a fourth-round pick in the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft or a 2022 third-round pick if the Oilers win a round in the playoffs this year.
Now in his 12th pro season, Kulikov has played 715 career NHL games since being drafted 14th overall in 2009 by the Florida Panthers following a stellar season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. A native of Lipetsk, Russia, Kulikov has also played for the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets before signing a one-year, $1.15M deal with the Devils last off-season.
After clearing quarantine, Kulikov’s first opportunity to suit up for his new team will come on April 26, when the Oilers visit the Winnipeg Jets. In the meantime, here are four things to know about Edmonton’s newest blueliner.
He’s Got Hardware
Kulikov, who has represented his country on several occasions, owns five medals from IIHF world championships: a gold (2007 U18), three silver (2008 U18, 2010 senior, 2015 senior), and a bronze (2009 U20). He also won bronze with Russia at the 2007 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
In his lone QMJHL season, 2008-09, Kulikov helped Drummondville win the league championship and was awarded the Emile Bouchard Trophy (Defenceman of the year), the Raymond Lagacé Trophy (Defensive rookie of the year), and the Michael Bossy Trophy (Best professional prospect).
Raphaël Lavoie, Edmonton’s 2019 second-round pick (38th overall), received the Michael Bossy Trophy for 2018-19 when he was a member of the Halifax Mooseheads.
He Comes From a Great Class
As the No. 14 picks in 2009, Kulikov is part of one of the better class of defenceman from recent NHL drafts. The blueliners chosen in the first round that year include Victor Hedman (No. 2), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (3), Ryan Ellis (11), Calvin de Haan (12), and Nick Leddy (16), while later rounds saw the likes of Dmitry Orlov (55), and David Savard (94) hear their names called. Current Oiler Tyson Barrie, who is one of the leading point-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season, was taken at No. 64.
Amongst this impressive collection of talent, only Hedman, Leddy and Ekman-Larsson have played more career games than Kulikov, who is one of just nine players from the entire 2009 Draft that currently have more than 700 NHL games under their belt.
He Likes Playing Canadian Teams
In 159 career games against the NHL’s seven franchises currently located in Canadian, Kulikov is averaging 0.314 points (13 goals, 37 assists), which is nearly 50% more than his rate against the 24 American franchises (0.219 points per game). He also boasts a plus-31 when playing the former, compared to minus-93 against the latter.
Kulikov has been his most productive against the Winnipeg Jets franchise (12 points in 24 games, plus-7) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (12 points in 28 games, plus-6), both of which are potential playoff opponents for the Oilers.
He’s Brand New to This Crew
From his season in junior through his entire professional career, Kulikov has never called any of the current Oilers a teammate, nor has he been coached by any member of the staff.
Without another Russian on Edmonton’s roster, he, of course, has also never played with any of the current Oilers internationally. In fact, the last Russian to suit up for an Oilers game was Valentin Zykov in December 2018.
The Oilers have a four-day break in their schedule April 22-25, so Kulikov should be able to get in some practice time with his new teammates before seeing actual game action. Speculation has the newcomer slotting in with Adam Larsson on Edmonton’s second defensive pairing.
Kulikov could play as many as 10 games from April 26 until the end of the regular season, as the Oilers are scheduled to face the Vancouver Canucks four times, while playing two games each against Winnipeg, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Calgary Flames. The playoffs get underway in mid-May.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.