Dmitry Kulikov made his Edmonton Oilers debut this week in a 6-1 road win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday (April 26) and has now played three games for his new team. The 30-year-old defenseman, who Edmonton acquired from the New Jersey Devils before the trade deadline on April 19, is the 25th player from Russia to don an Oilers jersey.
The first Russian to play in Edmonton was a forward, Anatoli Semenov, and the most famous Russian to play for the Oilers was a goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin. But it has been on the Oilers blueline where Russians have made their biggest impact, with defenceman accounting for four of the six Russians who played at least four seasons in Edmonton.
As Kulikov follows in their footsteps, here is a look back at the contributions of Edmonton’s top Russian rearguards.
Mironov played parts of six seasons with the Oilers and is the franchise’s all-time leader among Russian players in games (320), assists (118), points (160), and penalty minutes (444).
He was traded to Edmonton by the Winnipeg Jets during his rookie season, 1993-94, and became the first player to be named to the league’s All-Rookie team after playing for multiple teams.
Mironov was instrumental in the Oilers’ memorable playoff runs in the late ‘90s; in 1997, when Edmonton reached the second round after upsetting the Dallas Stars, he had a team-high eight assists and was second with 10 points in the post-season; A year later, in the Oilers’ quarter-final victory over the Colorado Avalanche, Mironov scored the winning goal with just over five minutes left in Game 1 and finished the series with six points.
“Bo Bo” is the only Russian player in Oilers history to wear a letter, serving as an assistant captain in 1997-98. That season he had a career-best 16 goals and a team-high 10 power-play goals and received the Oilers Defenceman of the Year award.
Grebeshkov first played in Edmonton from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and made a brief return to the Oilers in the 2013-14 season.
He had the finest season of his NHL career with the Oilers in 2008-09, when he set career-highs in games (72), goals (7), assists (32), and points (39), and led the team with a plus-12 rating.
Grebeshkov recorded 61 assists with the Oilers, tied for second-most by a Russian player in franchise history. He played 197 games over his two stints in Edmonton, placing him third among Russian players.
Kravchuk became the first Russian defenceman to play for the Oilers after he was traded to Edmonton from the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1992-93 season. He was named the Oilers Defenceman of the Year for 1993-94, his one true full season in Edmonton.
He is one of only two Oilers defenceman since 1990-91 to record a 50-point season, notching 12 goals and 38 assists in 1993-94. He is also one of just three defencemen to lead the Oilers in shots for a season, firing 197 in 1993-94.
Over parts of four seasons with the Oilers, Kravchuk played 160 games, scoring 27 times, and adding 61 helpers.
Perhaps the most popular Russian to play in Edmonton, Ulanov bulldozed his way through opponents and into fans’ hearts during a pair of stints with the Oilers.
Ulanov twice led the Oilers in plus-minus, going plus-15 in 2000-01, and plus-19 in 2003-04, which was the highest single-season rating for any Oilers blueliner between 1992-93 and 2015-16.
“The Mangler” received the Oilers Unsung Hero Award for the 2003-04 season, when he resurrected his career, signing with the Oilers mid-season after a tryout in the American Hockey League, and recorded a career-high five goals with 13 assists in 42 games.
Ulanov played a total 160 games over parts of four seasons in Edmonton, scoring 11 goals and adding 42 assists. He also suited up 11 times in the playoffs for the Oilers.
Kulikov may not stay in Edmonton nearly as long as Ulanov, let alone Mironov: he’s set to become a UFA in the off-season. But with the Oilers virtually assured a playoff berth, he will get the opportunity to do something only three Russian defencemen have done with the Oilers, play in the post-season.
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.