MONTREAL- OCTOBER 30: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Florida Panthers defends against Lars Eller #81 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 30 2010 in Montreal Quebec Canada. The Panthers defeated the Canadiens 3-1. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Today, we check in with left winger Kristian Huselius and current defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.
Huselius, a left wing from Osterhaninge, Sweden, earned his pre-NHL hockey chops with five seasons in the Swedish Elite League starting in 1996-97, first with Farjestads BK Karlstad (75 games, eight goals, five assists), then later with Vastra Frolunda HC (119 games, 55 goals, 60 assists). This, in spite of having been selected by Florida in the second round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, 47th overall.
2001-02 would see Huselius finally make the jump to North America, joining the Panthers out of training camp. In his NHL debut, he scored a goal in Florida's season opening 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored 10 points (seven goals and three assists) in a six game stretch from October 24 through November 3. On January 21, he scored a season high three points with a goal and two assists in a 7-5 win over the Montreal Canadiens. He led the Panthers with 23 goals on 169 shots, pitching in with a team second best 22 assists.He posted a minus-4 rating on the 22-44-10-6 club, getting yanked for only 14 penalty minutes all season. He averaged 16:55 for Florida through 79 games on the second line.
In 2002-03, Huselius enjoyed eight multi-point games, including a season high three points with a goal and two assists in a 6-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 6. He ranked third on the Panthers with 20 goals on 187 shots, assisting on 23 others. He averaged 17:20 TOI through 78 Panthers games, earning 20 PIM and a minus-6 rating.
2003-04 would see Huselius score 10 goals on 168 shots, ranking fourth on the Panthers with 21 assists and with 31 points. He had a minus-6 rating and 24 PIM. He averaged a career low 14:14 TOI in 76 Florida games. He went back to the Swedish Elite League in 2004-05, this time with Linkoping HC (34 games, 14 goals, 35 points).
Huselius returned to Florida for the 2005-06 season, scoring five goals and three assists through the first 24 games of the season. He was traded to the Calgary Flames on December 2 for Steve Montador and Dustin Johner. In parts of three seasons with the Flames, he scored 74 goals with 108 assists in 216 games. This includes career highs of 34 goals and 43 assists in 2006-07.
After the 2007-08 season, Huselius signed on as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets (189 games, 58 goals, 84 assists). He missed most of the 2011-12 season with a groin injury and recovery from pectoral surgery. He is currently an unrestricted free agent.
All-Time Statline: Four seasons, 257 games, 58 goals, 69 assists, 127 points, minus-27 rating, 62 PIM, 12.4 APS.
27. Dmitry Kulikov
Kulikov is a 6'1" defenseman from Lipetsk, Russia. He made his North American debut with the 2008-09 Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL (57 games, 12 goals, 50 assists). He was drafted by the Panthers soon afterwards, in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, 14th overall.
Kulikov made the team out of training camp in 2009-10. He took 87 shots on goal, potting three, including two in a 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 27. After suffering a knee injury in mid-December, he came back strong, appearing in a total of 68 games while averaging 17:56 TOI. He managed 13 assists, a minus-5 rating and 32 penalty minutes.
2010-11 would see Kulikov score a career high six goals on 83 shots, averaging 19:57 TOI through 72 games, mostly on Florida's second pairing line. He ranked second amongst the teams defensemen (and fifth overall) with 20 assists, and finished the season with a minus-5 rating and 45 penalty minutes.
Kulikov finished the 2012 season with a career high 28 points in a career low 58 games, due to a knee surgery in February. On December 5, he scored a goal and two assists in a 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals, one of four multi-point games on the season. He totalled four goals on 104 shots, pitching in with a career high 24 assists and finished with a minus-5 and 36 PIM. For the third time in his first three seasons, he saw his time on ice increase by two minutes, averaging 21:51 per game, third best on the blue line. He added an assist in seven playoff games after the regular season, finishing at minus-4.
Kulikov sometimes likes to show his aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ice, and he possesses a nice hard slapshot from the point. He was the only defenseman to play any shootout rounds (he was a better-than-average two-of-four). The departure of Jason Garrison opened a spot next to Brian Campbell on the first blue line pairing. If Erik Gudbranson does not wind up there, look for Kulikov. Still only 21-years old, Kulikov is currently unsigned, but as a restricted free agent, the Panthers have the best shot at signing him.
All-Time Statline: Three seasons, 198 games, 13 goals, 57 assists, 70 points, minus-15 rating, 113 PIM, 13.1 APS.