On Monday forum member mvp0207 asked the question: Myers or Kulikov? As I was diving in to answer his question I realized that this would make for the perfect Cage Match. His league has the standard 6×4 H2H rotisserie format and while it is a one year league I will answer his question for both the one year and keeper scope. You ready? Let's do this.
At only 21 years old both Tyler Myers and Dmitri Kulikov are already NHL veterans playing in their third NHL season. This is common place in the salary cap era as youngsters, even young defensemen, are pressed into action sooner. This trend has forced us to change the way we view the development of defensemen.
Traditionally defensemen have taken years to develop into stars. A classic model is Chris Pronger, who was selected second overall in 1993 . Pronger made the leap straight from the draft to the NHL, which was itself a minor miracle for that day and age, but it took until Pronger's sixth season, when he was 24 years old, before he scored even 40 points. Today it is no longer unusual for a defenseman to jump straight from the draft to the NHL and the expectations among teams, fans and poolies alike is to see production right away because if your young defenseman isn't producing chances are someone else's is. Myers and Kulikov offer us two different perspectives on how poolies need to approach these young defensemen.
Myers is the obvious answer to mvp0207's question. One need only compare their stats from the last two years and see that Myers has absolutely been the better own so far but it never is quite that simple. When players are so young one must be patient when considering their future and allow time for all the development and circumstantial opportunities to sort themselves out.
So far Myers has had an extreme advantage both developmentally and circumstantially. While both Kulikov and Myers were born in 1990, Myers was born in early February and Kulikov in late October. This means Kulikov has more in common, developmentally, with a player born in 1991 and this is reflected in the fact that Kulikov was drafted a year later than Myers. Essentially Myers has had an extra year of growth and development and that is compounded by the fact that Kulikov is an import and only got one year of play in the CHL before making the leap to the NHL. Myers, on the other hand, played three full seasons of major junior hockey before making his NHL debut. So while they both debuted in 2009-10, Myers was already light years ahead of Kulikov.
What's more, Myers received pro style coaching for each of his three years of major junior, playing for the NHL defenseman factory known as the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets franchise is only 16 years old but it has developed quite the reputation for preparing its players for the rigors of the NHL. Their alumni include Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Luke Schenn and many more NHL defensemen. Myers could not have picked a better junior team if he'd had a choice.
Then we have to factor in their pro teams. Myers was not only drafted to a quality franchise that made the playoffs in both of his first two years he was also given every opportunity to succeed. While Myers' combination of size, skating and puck moving ability was out of this world no matter which team he played for, it certainly helped that the Sabres were lacking all three.