Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
октября 2008 года.
Kulemin understands meaning of 'score'; Two Goals So Far; Antropov helps rookie with language barrier // CanWest Interactive
TORONTO - The blank stare means Nikolai Kulemin does not understand.
It means that the words were not recognized, the hand gestures were not comprehended, and the message was lost.
Ultimately, it means that Nik Antropov has to be summoned.
As one of two Toronto players who are fluent in both Russian and English -- Ukrainian Alexei Ponikarovsky is the other -- the Kazakh-born Antropov has become Kulemin's translator.
It is an unlikely role for a player who, as a student, "never paid attention" during compulsory English classes. But with Kulemin having scored two goals in his first three games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is role that could keep Antropov very busy.
"I should get paid for this," joked Antropov, who was in Kulemin's position when he broke into the league nine years ago.
"The first couple of years was tough, because there were a lot of Russians, so I never had to learn. It was easier to ask somebody. But then they all got traded.
Head coach Ron Wilson said Kulemin would be able to rely on Antropov for his first month in the league. After that, he will have to fend for himself.
"He understands English more than you think he does," said Wilson, who added that Kulemin is fluent in "hockey language."
"I'm not explaining rocket science to him. It's hockey ... you say forecheck, he knows what you're talking about. You say d-zone coverage, he knows what you're talking about. And that's right now all that we're focusing on."
Kulemin is planning to attend English classes so that he can learn to communicate with linemates Alex Steen and Dominic Moore. But the one thing the 22-year-old does not need to be taught is how to find the back of the net.
Heading into tonight's game against the New York Rangers, Kulemin's two goals lead the team, and he is the only Toronto player to have scored in the shootout.
"He's not surprised," Antropov, speaking on Kulemin's behalf, said of the youngster's early success. "He works hard for that. He's going to continue to work hard. He didn't expect that, but he worked hard for it."
Kulemin, who was drafted 44th overall in 2006, spent the past three seasons with Magnitogorsk Metallurg.
Evgeni Malkin was his line-mate as a rookie. When Malkin left for Pittsburgh, Kulemin stepped up to lead in goals scored with 27 in 2006-07 and 21 last season. According to Wilson, that is the equivalent of a "40-goal season" in the NHL.
"He scored in a big-time league in Russia, so there's no reason to think that he can't put some numbers here," Wilson said. "I've given him 12, 13, 14 minutes a night and as he feels comfortable I'll give him some more. Our goal is to develop these guys into players."
Indeed, in a season where the Leafs are expected to miss the playoffs, the team's success will be judged by the growth of Kulemin and fellow youngsters Mikhail Grabovski, Jiri Tlusty and Luke Schenn.
Already, Kulemin's breakaway speed and nose for the net has impressed his teammates and coaches. Wilson called the 6-foot-1, 183-pound winger a "power forward." And Steen added that he "can pick any corner" with his shot.
But whether Kulemin challenges Wendel Clark's Leafs rookie record of 34 goals in 1985-86 remains to be seen.
"Considering that it's his first year, I'd say anything from 15 to 20 [goals] would be reasonable," Wilson said. "But you never know. Maybe if I get him a little more on the power play and some other situations and he works his way up to 18, 19 minutes a night, maybe he could get 30."