The Finnish Liiga team HPK (Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho) has announced the signing of former AHL Oklahoma City Barons defenseman Kirill Tulupov to a one-year, plus option year contract (1+1) that includes a trial period through the end of September. HPK would have the option to renew his contract for the 2017-18 season.
HPK finished 13th in the Liiga this past season, missing their playoffs, and since then they have focused on building a stronger, more competitive team next season with new coaching staff and many new players.
Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 2006 round 3 #67 overall, Tulupov has spent most of his career playing in North America. Since turning professional, the majority of his experience has been in the AHL, ECHL, Slovakia and the KHL.
Tulupov is very eager to return to Europe to play after spending the majority of the past five seasons in North America.
“It is really exciting to join HPK in the Liiga, to return to the highest level of European hockey, a level that I used to be playing in since a very early age in my first professional season in Slovakia and then the KHL,” he said. “I lost sight of that for a while because my heart was in North America pursuing my dream of playing in the NHL. I unfortunately sacrificed a lot of opportunities and offers from Europe due to my American dream.”
“I am very thankful to my agent and to the HPK team, coaches and scouts, for giving me a chance and believing. I am going to prepare myself very seriously for this huge opportunity and I am ready to give everything I have to the club,” Tulupov stated.
Early scouting reports and videos from Tulupov’s Junior career and early stages of his development represent him primarily as an enforcer, but he is developed far beyond that now. “Especially me, in my position as a free agent for a very long time, the only way of surviving is to become a complete player,” said Tulupov. “I have realized that now a player cannot be oriented toward one position only, on only one part of the ice. I have been developing my skills and talent to be more comfortable on every inch of the ice.”
Tulupov said he had made an effort to dramatically improve his offensive play the past two years.
“I feel comfortable controlling the puck and making a difference on the offense,” he said, “becoming much more of an overall defenseman so I can contribute on both ends of the ice, whether it is Powerplay, Penalty Kill, 5-on-5, or key situations.”
In his 63 games with the Wichita Thunder in 2014-15 Tulupov had 7 goals and 14 assists for 21 points, and he had 119 shots on goal with 85 penalty minutes. His 21 points included 3 powerplay goals, 5 powerplay assists, 1 game-winning goal, 1 insurance goal and 1 overtime goal.
In his nine games with the LNAH since late January he had 6 points (1 goal; 5 assists), 15 shots on goal and 1 game-winning goal. In his six playoff games so far in the LNAH Tulupov has tallied 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists), including 2 powerplay goals and 1 powerplay assist, and 22 shots on goal.
This will not be Tulupov’s first visit to Finland. He remembers a summer camp when he “studied in Finland with my Junior team from Russia, and also training camps with a KHL team.” And he particularly remarked his enjoyment of Finland’s winter. “I like Finland, I like all four seasons,” he said. “I like when winter is actually winter, with lots of snow. I’m Russian, I’m coming from the same type of environment, so I’m going to feel very comfortable there!”
Tulupov with rejoin several former teammates on the HPK roster – former OKC Barons Philippe Cornet and former KHL Amur Khabarovsk teammate Janne Lahti.
Excited about the prospect of Tulupov joining the team, HPK fans have already created a new nickname for him — “Tu-22” after the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22 supersonic bomber (See image below). Well done!
UPDATE (May 27th): Tulupov’s jersey number will in fact be no. 22 according to the team’s roster posted recently! (By the way HPK fans, that design would make great stickers or pins!)
For additional details on the team see Jatkoaika’s article “HPK:n ensi kauden runko julki – Jukureiden tehomiehet Hämeenlinnaan.”
See also links to earlier Tulupov Interviews and articles:
- Kirill Tulupov — OKC Barons (December 7, 2011)