Interesting story out of the KHL — Ak Bars Kazan blueliner Ilya Nikulin is reportedly mulling a move to the NHL.
In Kazan, fans are following Nikulin’s bid for an NHL deal with interest: many are still hoping that he might come back ‘home’ to Tatarstan if things don’t work out across the Atlantic, but [head coach Zinetula] Bilyaletdinov himself is looking to the future.
“I can understand why players like Medvedev and Nikulin want to try and play in the NHL,” he told Sovietsky Sport during the current pre-season tournament in Nizhny Novgorod. “It’s a good league, and it’s an honor to play there. I’m sure Ilya [Nikulin] will make the right choice and will get his contract over there.”
“Medvedev” is 32-year-old Yevgeni Medvedev, who spent his entire professional career playing in Europe, most recently with Kazan, before signing a one-year, $3 million pact with the Flyers in May.
Nikulin, 33, was the 31st overall pick at the 2000 draft — taken by Atlanta — but never appeared in a game for the Thrashers, or North America for that matter. He played with Dynamo Moscow for the early parts of his pro career before moving to Kazan, where he’s been since 2005.
It remains to be seen what, if any, interest NHL teams have in Nikulin, or how much he has left in the tank. He is a regular on the Russian national team and is coming off a good offensive year with Kazan, scoring 13 goals and 28 points in 58 games.