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Karson Kuhlman headed to New York

Former Cloquet hockey star Karson Kuhlman is on the move as he heads back to play on the East Coast in the National Hockey League, this time for the New York Islanders.

Last season, Kuhlman started the season with the Seattle Kracken and eventually finished the season playing for the Winnipeg Jets. It was announced last week that he'd signed a contract with the New York Islanders.

"I am really excited," Kuhlman said. "The Islanders are well known for taking care of their guys in the organization, with the legendary [general manager] Lou Lamouriello leading the team." Kuhlman agreed to a one-year, two-way contract on July 5 with the Islanders. According to various reports, the deal will pay Kuhlman $775,000 at the NHL level, and if he spends time in the minors with the Islanders' American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport [Connecticut] Islanders, he would get a guaranteed minimum of $350,000. Those are numbers that were published last week.

"Unlike when I was at Winnipeg, there aren't any guys on the Islanders that I've ever played with," Kuhlman said. "I'm familiar with a handful of their players and there are some Minnesotans on the team, so it will be fun to get to know the guys."

Among the Minnesotans on the Islanders roster are Anders Lee of Edina, Brock Nelson of Warroad, and Hudson Fasching of Apple Valley.

After playing for Cloquet-

Esko-Carlton in high school, he led the University of Minnesota Duluth team to an NCAA national championship in 2018. Kuhlman started his professional career with the Boston Bruins organization, where he signed as a free agent.

Boston waived Kuhlman in December of last year, but he was then picked up by Seattle and then later last season by Winnipeg.

"After having four years in Boston, it's been a busy time over the last couple of years with stops in Seattle, Winnipeg, and now in New York," Kuhlman said. "I think I can add some depth up front, and I take pride in my penalty kill and I've taken something from every stop I've made in my pro career."

Kuhlman, an Esko native, was named the MVP of the 2018 NCAA tournament. After playing for CEC, Kuhlman first went on to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League before joining the UMD Bulldogs.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward adds depth to the Islanders' front line and gritty play. He excels at the penalty kill and as a forechecker, and has played in 147 professional games.

"The list of guys that only play for one team in the NHL is very, very small," Kuhlman said. "It is kind of what happens, so you have to adapt and continue to try and learn from each stop. In the end, I still love playing hockey and I am getting paid to play pro hockey, so I've been very lucky."

Kuhlman is currently back in the Duluth area, where he works out with a large group of former UMD players three times a week at Amsoil Arena.

His NHL training camp will open in early September.

"We have a good group of guys that get together and work on things," Kuhlman said of his summer program. "We will ramp it up later in the summer to the point we are skating about five times a week."

Kuhlman finds himself working perhaps harder now to stay in the NHL than he did when he was trying to get to pro hockey.

"There is a lot of pressure for some people to get on an NHL roster," Kuhlman said. "I don't feel the pressure, but you know what you have to do, and you have to put in the work. It's always in the back of your head, so you have to stay as sharp as you can."

Kuhlman will join a team that is known as one of the hardest-working and toughest teams in the NHL, which hopefully makes him a perfect fit, with his gritty and tenacious nature that has served him well throughout his youth, high school, college and pro careers.