26-Year-Old Defenseman – Buffalo Sabres
Dmitry Kulikov Contract Information:
Signed three-year, $13 million deal with the Panthers in July 2014.
Kulikov (back) will return to Buffalo's lineup for Tuesday's game against the Predators, John Vogl of The Buffalo News reports.
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Dmitry Kulikov: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Kulikov is coming off a somewhat disappointing season in which he put up three goals and 19 assists in 73 games for the Panthers. After scoring eight goals in 2013-14, Kulikov's regression was due to a drastically diminished shooting percentage, which fell from 6.3 percent down to 3.6 percent. It didn't help matters that Kulikov also attempted 44 fewer shots. Playing more than 21 minutes per game while fluctuating in and out of the Panthersí top four, Kulikov is a solid defensive blueliner, but doesn't provide enough on the score sheet to give him much in the way of fantasy value. That said, if he can find a way to ratchet up his shot attempts, he should improve upon last seasonís three-goal output.
Five years into his NHL career, the 23 year-old Kulikov is an enigma. Coming off arguably his worst season, Kulikov will need to demonstrate that he still possesses the skills to reemerge as a useful fantasy defenseman. In 2013-14, Kulikov scored just eight goals and 19 points to go along with a minus-26 rating, but he did at least manage to set new career-highs in shots, hits, and PIM, suggesting a some maturation in his physical game even as his scoring dipped. The Panthersí new management staff includes the defensive coach who helped mold a Kings squad that has been among the league's best on that side of the ice, and his tutelage may help boost Kulikov's game. There is reason for some optimism that Kulikov could show some improvement while costing very little to get onto your team, but until he shows dramatic change, he will remain a risky investment.
Kulikov recorded a line of 3/7/10 in 34 games with the Panthers last season, but missed the end of the season with a shoulder injury. With the shoulder now surgically repaired, it will be interesting to see if the 22-year-old former first round draft pick can push his offensive game to the next level.
Kulikov continues to progress, scoring a career-high 28 points in only 58 games played this past season. Injuries curtailed what was shaping up to be the young defender's finest season, as did several stretches of inconsistency. The former 2009 first-round pick has really picked up his game making him an attractive fantasy option. While there may be some dips in production throughout the course of a season, Kulikov remains a strong long-term prospect, especially in keeper leagues.
Kulikov took another step forward in his development, posting career highs in goals (6), assists (20) and points (26). Still only 20 years old, Kulikov has major breakout potential considering an increased opportunity to rack up assists as a result of the Panthers' offseason shopping spree. Kulikov will frustrate owners at times as he continues to work at his game while playing in the NHL, but he's definitely an upside pick.
In 2009-10, Kulikov averaged over 17 minutes of ice time in 68 games as a rookie. This 19-year-old is a well-rounded rearguard who could dent the box score more frequently as he matures. Already, he's known as a smart player who can hold his own on the ice. He'll be given every opportunity to thrive on Florida's blue line, but it would be smart to exercise caution when drafting him, as it could take him another season to fully bloom.
There are indications the Panthers will give Kulikov a serious look in training camp, but it's more likely that the puck-moving defenseman will end up back in Drummondville of the QMJHL. He's certainly a name to keep an eye on in the future, though.