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08-19-2008, 01:11 PM
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Alexander Nikulin -- Nikulin was regarded as the fourth-best Russian in his draft year, 2004, behind Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. He is a well-built 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, but is not a physical player. He is, however, an excellent defensive center with great awareness and top-notch passing skills. He has a great understanding of the game and skates well but needed last season in the AHL.

Nikulin was Binghamton's third-leading scorer and the AHL's seventh-leading rookie scorer with 14 goals and 36 assists last season. He was called up for two NHL games in November.

"He's a young Russian kid who we put pressure on to come over later than we did with Ilya Zubov," Murray said. "Zubov's success helped Nikulin's decision. Alexander played two NHL games for us last year and looked decent. He had 14 goals and 50 points in Binghamton, playing on the second and third lines. He had an outstanding rookie year. The main thing Nikulin has to work on is that some nights he's good and some nights he's not. He has to improve his consistency. He needs to understand that he can't just rely on his skill all the time. He'll get it. He's a very talented kid."

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