Rated as the 2nd overall European skater by NHL Central Scouting, Valeri Nichushkin just finished up his first season in the KHL, and has taken home Rookie of the Year honors. The Russian power forward claims he’s planning on playing in the NHL and will attend the scouting combine in Toronto. Highly touted, but with questions. Could we see a sequel to last year’s pick of Mikhail Grigorenko? Jeremy White explains...
While there is plenty of talk about Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, there are other elite-level forwards that will go near the top of the NHL Draft.
Valeri Nichushkin will bring out the same conversations that were had about Mikhail Grigorenko last year. The KHL threat is one that looms fairly consistently, but doesn’t always play a factor. We watched just last year as both Nail Yakupov and Grigorenko held through on their commitment to playing hockey in North America.
Nichushkin has already spent time in the KHL where he’s produced, as a boy among men. At 17, he’s been playing with men, rather than Junior Leagues. In 18 games with Traktor, Nichushkin put up 6 points. He added 9 more in 25 playoff games. While those numbers aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, consider that he’s just turned 18.
He has time left on his current KHL contract, but insists that he’s been told that he’ll be released to play in the NHL. It all adds up to a very skilled player, that might stay in Russia for another season before making the leap to North America. Adding to the issue is the fact that he was just traded at the start of this month. A hefty fee was paid for his services. Will his new team be cool with the idea of him leaving for the NHL? Will they be satisfied if they can hang on to him for a year?
The Sabres selection of Mikhail Grigorenko in the 2012 draft was a landmark move for the franchise in that they selected a Russian player. The Sabres, simply put, did not take Russian players (2 in the first round in franchise history prior to last year). One has to wonder whether or not Darcy Regier likes the idea of Nichushkin on a wing with Grigorenko.
Nichushkin is a power forward. Listed at 6’4’’ and 202 pounds, he’s been compared to (as Grigorenko was) Evgeni Malkin. He might not be NHL ready when it comes to his contract and the KHL issue, but ISS (International Scouting Services) rates him as the 2nd overall skater.
Success in the KHL.
Success at the World Championships.
Better than Drouin?
Better than MacKinnon?
At 8, it’d be another no-brainer.