Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin: The Complete Leaf
Nikolai Kulemin has flown under-the-radar in becoming
a key player for Toronto this season
This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Nikolai Kulemin may in fact be one of the most complete players currently slapping a stick across any NHL ice surface.
There are a number of other players in the NHL who play a complete game. Players who score, set up their team mates, don't take mindless penalties and are responsible for the most part defensively.
Players like Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Ray Whitney just to name a few, have all earned the respect of their peers and the adoration of their fans as being great all around type players.
Does Nikolai Kulemin deserve to be talked about in the same conversation as the others in that regard?
Some would say no. It would of course depend in large part on whether you were a fan of the Leafs, but even then chances are you hadn't really thought of it.
As strong on the puck as most, and stronger than some, "Kulli" is not only earning his keep in the offensive zone, but is very intuitive and responsible defensively and is rarely in a bad situation.
With only 20 minutes in penalties this year, he also isn't one prone to mindless play either, and most of his penalty minutes were what are referred to as "good penalties."
At only 24 years of age, Kulemin seems to be completely over looked at times when people talk in terms of young talent that the Toronto Maple Leafs have, and while he isn't quite a kid still, there is certainly still reason to believe he'll get even better.
Drafted 44th overall in 2006, he won the Russian Super League MVP title in 2007 as a member of RSL champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk team as well that year.For Leafs fans, Kulemin should also be a not so subtle reminder that good players do still come from outside of the top ten prospects in the NHL Draft.
Nikolai Kulemin is quietly, making himself a household name, and if he isn't already mentioned in the same breath as players like the ones mentioned earlier, he likely soon will be.