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Author: Alessandro Seren Rosso (RussianProspects.com)Date: 09/25/2007
Russian Super League, Round 6: Shift-by-shift with Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs)

2008 Super League

Russian Superleague, Round 6: Shift-by-shift with Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs)

For the sixth round of the Superleague we took a close look at promising Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs). We evaluated the power forward's game with a complete shift-by-shift log, a technique that permits to have a very deep report of his actual play.

The young right wing is used by head coach Fedor Kanareikin on the first line, playing as with Czech players Jan Marek and Jaroslav Kudrna. This line was instrumental in last year's Metallurg triumph in the Russian Super League. Letís see how he does against Severstal Cherepovets, a mid-tier team off to a great start and thus a very dangerous opponent.† Nikolai appears to be in good shape too, after his two goals to shut down Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4-1. †Please bear in mind that the Toronto prospect is going to play his last season in the RSL prior of trying his fortune overseas, as he signed a three year entry-contract with the historic Canadian team. Will he manage to repeat the great season he had last year? Will he be hit by the sophomore slump? How will he do in the NHL? Those are only a bunch of the questions that arise around him, hopefully Nikolai will manage to give a great reply to them all. But now itís game time, and our shift-by-shift log is about to start.

Shift#1 - Start of the game - 0'41"
Passes: 0/2
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways:
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: He spent the first shift almost entirely in the defensive zone since his team has lost the starting faceoff and had trouble getting out. Nikolai has touched the puck twice searching for a pass after long time in the defensive zone but he couldn't find anyone.

Shift#2 - 3'23" - 4'18"
Passes: 1/1
Key passes: -
Hits: 1
Turnover: -
Takeaways: 1
Penalties: -:
Shoots:
Assist: -
Goals: -:
Summary: After a few seconds his team was called for icing. He won the subsequent faceoff in the defensive zone since the referee demanded Kudrna to be replaced with him. Some seconds later he and Evgeni Varlamov effectively challenged the opposition along the boards and he won the puck after the battle, but in the offensive rush his linemate Kudrna has hooked the defender for a penalty, thus ending the shift. This was a good shift by Nikolai, as he worked hard and has made a good job on defense. About the offensive front, his line is yet to start playing.

Shift#3 - 6'52" - 7'38"
Passes 0/1
Key passes:
Hits:
Turnover:
Takeaways 1
Penalties: -:
Shoots: 2
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: The third shift of Nikolai's game started with a faceoff in the offensive zone lost by Kudrna, following Vyukhin freezing the puck after a deflection trial by Denis Platonov (Nashville Predators). Finally his line has spent some time attacking and Kulemin shot the puck twice, both from the right circle: the first was rejected by a defender, the second was a good one but wend directly into the goaltender, and was easy to save with the chest. Both shots were meant to be as strong as possible, and it seemed that he also wanted to release them as quickly as possible. He kept struggling in the passing area, missing a great opportunity, but has also displayed the usual dedication and efficiency on the boards by winning another battle, this time by poke checking the puck away.

Shift#4 - 10'30" - 11'20"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: First his line had a good chance with Marek behind the goal, but Nikolai played near the blueline, leaving space in the slot for Kudrna and not touching the puck. The Czech combination didn't work out and Severstal cleared the puck for an icing, with Kanareikin change lines. During this fifty second shift Kulemin was literally invisible, but in his defense one must admit that sometimes, like in this shift, Marek and Kudrna tended to rely a bit too much on each other and thus putting Nikolai out of play.

Shift#5 - 14'10" - 14'48"
Passes: 1/1
Key passes: 1
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: For the first time he was used on the penalty killing and he had to do nothing since Severstal dumped the puck after missing the pass, and in the meantime the penalty ended. Then Metallurg got the puck and Kulemin started his first true scoring chance of the game by passing the puck to Jan Marek in the neutral zone who broke into the offensive third and took a shot. Vyukhin blocked it and after the freeze Kanareikin decided to change lines again. In this shift Kulemin did a good job in the neutral zone: he followed well the defensive play and distributed the puck to his line mate in good position to get a shoot.

*GAME NOTE*: At 15'15" Anton Glovatsky had a great chance for a go-ahead goal but his shot from the slot was just wide of the net.

Shift#6 - 15'29" - 16'06"
Passes: 1/1
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Great shift for Kulemin as he broke into the offensive third with the puck on the blade dribbling past two defenseman. After it he was looking for the shot but the opponents' defense was well positioned and he cleverly decided to get wider and give the puck back to Marek. After the pass he skated to the slot for the return pass but he couldn't get it because he was slashed by Chaslava, who was then sent to the penalty box. Thanks to Kuleminís big effort now Metallurg Mg is on a powerplay.

*GAME NOTE*: Goal for Metallurg! A few second after the penalty, Yuri Babenko took the puck around the blue line and skated into offensive zone. Once arriving there he tried a quick wrist shot that surprised Vyukhin and got in between his pads. Interesting that while shooting Babenko broke his stick.

Shift#7 - 18'34" - 19'29"
Passes:
Key passes: -
Hits: 1
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -:
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Iced right after the goal, Kulemin started his seventh shift by hitting an opponent making him pass the puck way too deep in the zone. Metallurg rushed quickly and Marek put Kudrna in front of the goalie but he missed. Another time Kulemin made things happen...The shift ended quickly later because of a questionable offside call.

First period summary: Nikolai has played a very good first period. He was dangerous on three different occasions and also gave a key pass to Marek. He only took only one shift off. His ability to make things happen with different skills, by shooting, stickhandling or physically playing the game, is his best weapon and the first 20 minutes confirmed this.

Shift#8 - start of second period - 0'27"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways
Penalties: -:
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Short shift, Severstal had the puck most of the time and they sent it over the glasses after less than thirty seconds of play. Kanareikin decided to change lines and iced the second line, Gladskykh/Kaigorodov/Emeleev/Shtrbak/Seluyanov.

*GAME NOTE*: At the second minute of play Platonov had a great chance as he tried to put the puck between Vyukhin's legs from two meters but the Ukrainian goalie was ready to go down and reject. Big chance for Metallurg to double the advantage.

*GAME NOTE*: At the third, Severstal had a couple of chances to tie it up but Alexei Glukhov's and Kuklev's open shots went rejected by Mezin with the pads.

Shift#9 - 3'24" - 3'58"
Passes: 0/1
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Nikolai got a loose puck in the offensive zone and tried to give it to a line mate but he missed the pass. After that he went down hard after a hit by Straka and was forced to go to the bench.

*GAME NOTE*: Goal for Metallurg! On a powerplay, Platonov got the puck on the right circle and released a very accurate wristshot that went in between Vyukhin's pad and the left post. Great goal by the Nashville prospect.

Shift#10 - 6'17" - 7'05"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: 1
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Nikolai didn't miss any shift because of the hit that benched him earlier. He tried cracking into the offensive zone with the puck on the stick and he was stopped by a questionable defensive effort by Bardin. It might have been penalty worthy. At around 7 minutes he went two on one with Kudrna but the Czech overplayed the puck thus permitting to his country mate Hrabal (Edmonton Oilers) to dive to the ice and stop the pass.

*GAME NOTE*: Goal for Metallurg! While killing a penalty, Yuri Babenko took advantage of an ugly error by Polygalov behind his own net to get in front of Vyukhin. He then released a top shelf backhander that hit the goalkeeper's shoulder before getting in for his second goal of the game.

Shift#11 - 10'46" - 11'58"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: He was iced with Kudrna to kill a penalty. Nikolai did a good job trying to shadow opponents' pass lines, leaving the dirty work to the more experienced Kudrna. He was never caught out of position and he also stopped a play by deflecting a pass and putting Severstal power play unit offside. It was a quite long shift, spent almost entirely in the defensive zone, and he didn't look too tired after it was done.

Shift#12 - 13'55" - 14'45"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: 1
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Shift started in the defensive zone, Kudrna lost the faceoff. Nikolai was outplayed by Kuklev along the boards but then Severstal has lost the puck. After it he didn't handle a pass by Kudrna and his turnover put Severstal in attack again, but they didn't conclude anything. After Metallurg's third goal the game slowed off and it's not as intense as it was in the first period.

*GAME NOTE*: Goal for Severstal! On a powerplay, Severstal cuts down the advantage: after Hrabal's shot from the blue line rejected by Andrei Mezin, the defense can't clear the zone after a couple of shots by Czech Horzhava leaving Bardin free to score on the rebound.

Shift#13 - 17'26" - 19'01"
Passes: 9/10
Key passes: 2
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: 2
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Iced on a power play, he played on the right wing and made one great pass for the nice movement without the puck of Vitaly Atyushov in the slot searching for the deflection that unfortunately went wide. †After a couple of tape-to-tape passes, he took a shot that was blocked by a defender. †A bit later, he was again in a good position to shoot but he preferred to re-open the game by passing on the blue line for Varlamov's shot, just wide. After Varlamov's effort Nikolai has got the puck and passed to Kudrna, wide again. Metallurg put pressure on Severstal and Nikolai distributed the puck very well: always starting from the right, he sent the puck in the slot, towards Marek. The Czech did a great job serving Kudrna but he missed the control of the puck with the open crease, missing an easy goal. Severstal didn't manage to clear the zone and Kulemin had a shot, but he sent it wide. Excellent shift.

Second period summary: Nikolai has played an average second period. He didn't do much until the last shift were he was excellent, but it was on a powerplay. Now that Severstal has cut down the disadvantage the game might be more interesting and we might see Nikolai giving the hundred percent again.

Shift#14 - Start of third period - 0'24"
Passes: -
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Iced on the power play again, it was a short shift like second period's one and he hadn't time to shine.

Shift#15 - 2'48" - 3'51"
Passes: 0/1
Key passes: -
Hits: -
Turnover: 1
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: -
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Nikolai has been outmuscled by Hrabal and he got moved away from the puck for a turnover. After it, Marek has overplayed the puck for another turnover by Metallurg. Classical "shift off".

Shift#16 - 7'14" - about 7'50"
Passes: 1/1
Key passes: 1
Hits: -
Turnover: -
Takeaways: -
Penalties: -
Shoots: 1
Assist: -
Goals: 1
Summary: This time, he was dangerous as soon as he hit the ice: deep in the zone, he sent the puck well back to the blue line for Varlamov, whose shot was dangerous. After the rebound, Kuklev hooked Kudrna and took a penalty. Once again Kulemin has put his teammates in position to be effective and useful, with the result of a penalty gained in favor of his team. After it, Kudrna won the faceoff and exchanged the puck with Marek. After their duet, the Czech serves Nikolai who, with a blast first touch shot from the left circle, SCORES! The impressive feed by Marek was perfect, as well as was Nikolai's positioning. The shot was quick and strong, and very accurate. It was unstoppable for Vyukhin and went into the net near the far post. Great goal by Kulemin.

Shift#17 - 10'59" - 11'28"
Passes 1/1
Key passes
Hits
Turnover
Takeaways
Penalties: -:
Shoots
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Shift too short to have something worth telling.

Shift#18 - 13'23" - 14'17"
Passes 2/2
Key passes
Hits
Turnover
Takeaways 1
Penalties: -:
Shoots
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: After a long pass from the defense, Marek touched the puck in the neutral zone. Kudrna has managed to control it enough despite Dmitri Yushkevich's effort to hit Marek, whose action was interrupted by a slash from by Horzava. Metallurg is once again on the powerplay but Marek and Kudrna stole the scene, ignoring Kulemin. The game is virtually closed and players' conduct reflects it.

Shift#19 - 16'44" - 17'23"
Passes
Key passes
Hits
Turnover
Takeaways
Penalties: -:
Shoots
Assist: -
Goals: -
Summary: Iced with Kudrna to kill a penalty. At the seventeenth he made a good job by poke checking the opponent and clearing the zone. He hadn't much to do because Severstal's powerplay was quite poor.

Third period summary: Nikolai was very good in this third period and scored a goal. He also played well on defense and in the penalty killing situation he faced late in the game.

Kulemin's game in numbers

Time on ice: 14'57" in 19 shifts (average shift lenght: 47,2 seconds)
Passes: 16/22 (72,7%)
Key passes: 4
Hits: 2
Turnovers: 3
Takeaways: 1
Penalties: -:: 0
Shoots: 5
Shoots breakdown: 1 goal, 1 save, 1 wide, 2 blocked
Assist: -s: 0
Goals: 1

Game summary: Right wing Kulemin played an excellent game in both ends of the rink. He scored one goal and made four key passes, but has also displayed a very good defensive game as well as a good physical presence. He was the second best player of the game after Babenko, who was key with his double. Although he was a good playmaker during the powerplay rush of the shift #13 he has to improve his passing game.

Grade: A-
He can make things happen whenever he is on the ice, and this game has showed exactly this. He was a goal scorer, a good defender, a physical player and also an interesting playmaker in this game. Enough said to consider him a talented prospect that can become a top-six NHL player.


Related Player Profiles: . Y.Babenko A.Glovatsky N.Kulemin D.Platonov
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