With a little help from Treehouse (adults without kids, never mind), Nikolai Kulemin has been able to get a handle on English.
“My boy (Alexei) is 11 months now and he is just starting to watch TV,” Kulemin said. “I watch the kids movies. I feel more comfortable this year. Now, English is not hard for me.”
Russian native Kulemin, in his second year with the Maple Leafs, has been getting a firm grip on the NHL dialect, as well. But no coach ever is truly satisfied, and though Kulemin has developed into a defensively responsible player, Ron Wilson could have settled for more scoring out of the 23-year-old in 2009-10.
Kulemin had 15 goals as a rookie, and with 16 games remaining, has 13 this season.
“I was kind of hoping this year he would have 20-25 goals now,” Wilson said. “Considering all the turmoil, he did not get off to a good start and he did not have a good training camp. But the last two months, he arguably has been our best all-around forward.”
Kulemin has had obvious chemistry with Mikhail Grabovski, a trait that was on full display on Tuesday night when Kulemin scored the winner in overtime against the Boston Bruins.
Wilson said language never was a barrier in dealing with Kulemin, but the Leafs’ second-round pick in 2006 is having an easier time off the ice thanks to English lessons and that has helped result in an overall improvement on the ice.
“I have more (playing) time and I can show what I can do,” Kulemin, who has played in more games with Toronto than any other current Leaf other than Tomas Kaberle, said. “I like the role. I understand the game style. More shots, play a physical game and I try to do that.”