I’ve said before, comparisons are fun, but not always fair, or apt.
That said, I’ve opined previously that I see a bit of Mike Walton (a Leaf in the late ‘60s) in young Phil Kessel. Both were/are fast skaters with flair and offensive pop—though we all know Kessel is struggling of late.
This leads me to Nikolai Kulemin, who keeps making strides. Last night, he scored and, late in the game, created a power-play opportunity for the Leafs. At 23, I sense he is poised to become a solid all-around player. He is only in his second year. I always remember Lanny McDonald struggled mightily in his first two seasons, showing flashes but not consistent production.
Now, McDonald was a high first-round draft choice and was much more of a physical, punishing presence than Kulemin, but what I’m seeing is the same sort of growth pattern. As Kulemin’s confidence grows, he realizes he is able to do the things he is capable of doing at the NHL level.
My guess is that, by next season, he should develop into a guy who could be a “top-six” forward.