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Islanders: Former player lighting up the KHL

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 14: Nikolay Kulemin #86 of the New York Islanders looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on October 14, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 14: Nikolay Kulemin #86 of the New York Islanders looks on during the game against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on October 14, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
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The KHL is easily the second-best professional hockey league in the world. It’s not quite the NHL, but it’s still a high-caliber league. And a former New York Islanders player is currently near the top of the goal-scoring table. He’s second in fact.

Remember Nikolai Kulemin? He hasn’t been with the Islanders for four years now just in case you don’t. He’s in Russia now and killing it in the KHL this year with an incredible six goals in six games.

Former New York Islanders forward Nikolai Kulemin killing it in the KHL

After an injury-plagued 2020-21 season where he played 22 games for home-town club Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Kulemin moved to Salavat Ufa on a one-year deal. And in Ufa’s opening six games of the 2021-22 season he’s already popped in six goals.

Only former Vegas Golden Knights (and “former” is a strong term to use here) has more goals than Kulemin in the KHL with seven. Add one assist to Kulemin’s six goals and he been as productive in these opening six games as he was in his 22 games last year.

It’s an incredible return for the now 35-year-old.

Kulemin was always a useful player, specifically with the Islanders. In his 248 games in a blue and orange sweater, Kulemin put up 79 points. He was never the 30 goals scorer that he was with the Maple Leafs in 2010-11, and certainly not productive enough to warrant that $4.1875 million cap hit that Garth Snow signed him to. But he was still a good player for the Islanders.

You could always count on Kulemin to put in a strong shift either at 5on5 or on the penalty kill. Who can forget this epic game-winning goal in the 2015 playoffs that was thought to be the last game at the Coliseum ever?

It’s nice to see Kulemin back to his best in Russia. Who knows if this is sustainable (it probably won’t be), but this hyper-productive start to the year is great to see from the former Islanders forward.

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