Who is Valeri Nichushkin?
Valeri Nichushkin is a very exciting forward prospect from Chelyabinsk, Russia. He is a hometown boy who signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk as his first professional team. However, last week Nichushkin was traded to Dynamo Moscow, who, faced each other in this year's KHL Gagarin Cup Finals with Dynamo winning the series. While Dynamo Moscow is technically Nichushkin's current team, he hasn't played a single game with them since the KHL is currently in their offseason.
Note: If you are like me, you have no idea how to pronounce this prospect's name. So here is a handy guide so you don't look like a buffoon when you are talking about Nichushkin in public. Pronunciation: Valeri Knee-Chew-Sh-kin
Nichushkin has impressed the scout's at almost every level. He has played in a handful of U-18 tournaments for Russia while also moving his way from Traktor's semi-pro affiliate onto the KHL squad. Nichushkin also played in 25 KHL playoff games this season for Traktor. While most prospects in the CSS rankings have only picked up junior league experience, Nichushkin has already proved he can play with top tier talent with his phenomenal KHL play.
In 2012, Nichushkin helped propel the Russia Men's U-17 team to the gold medal with three goals and three assists. Last season, Nichushkin moved through Traktor's affiliates and made it onto the KHL team and played 18 regular season games, scoring 4 goals and 2 assists. The totals don't seem that impressive, but Nichushkin turned 18 only two months ago. He was also limited in ice time while playing with Traktor. However, once the post season began, Nichushkin saw a small increase in ice time and managed to put up six goals and three assists in 25 playoff games. Also of note, Nichushkin took no penalties in any KHL appearances.
If that wasn't impressive enough, Nichushkin also led the Russian team to the bronze medal in the World Junior Championships. Nichushkin played in six games with one goal. However, that one goal just happened to be in overtime, in the bronze medal game, against Canada. He sure picked a hell of a time to score a goal against a loaded Canadian team.
Nichushkin is ranked as the #2 European skater by the Central Scouting Agency. The International Scouting Service has him as the # 2 overall skater. Given the consensus top five potential, I find it hard to believe that Nichushkin falls to the Devils.
Valeri Nichushkin Player Statistics
What Experts Have Said About Valeri Nichushkin
Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News):
On Nichushkin being Russian: "If Nichushkin continues to dazzle, don't be surprised to see him get selected very high in the draft - exactly where he belongs, regardless of where his passport comes from."
Ben Kerr (Last Word on Sports):
"His playing style reminds us of Rick Nash and this is one case where the playing style and potential line up, as we can see him being a similar level of elite winger."
Alessandro Rosso (Hockey's Future):
"Valery Nichushkin, is a large winger whose biggest strength lies in his size and his body control on the ice. He is not as skillful as the top Russian prospects usually are, but he knows how to make use of his mass and is a very good skater."
Franklin Steele (Bleacher Report):
"When [Nichushkin] isn't getting to the dirty areas and scoring goals, he is using his considerable speed and hands to open up space for those lining up alongside him. he also has excellent vision and can find open players with the best of the 2013 crop of prospects."
ISS Top 30 Roundup #2 Valery Nichushkin Flashes of dominance at only 17 years old in KHL. Powerful on feet w/offensive skills to match.— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) April 19, 2013
Select Nichushkin Highlights
Here is a 4 minute video of highlights. However,at the 2:50 mark you can see Nichushkin score an OT goal against Canada in the Bronze medal game of the U-18 IIHF tournament.
Here is a highlight of Nichushkin scoring two goals in a KHL playoff game against Avangard. Great puck handling and two stellar shots.
Other than his "sweep the ice" celebration after practically every goal he scores, I like this guy. He drives to the net with speed and makes the defense make the first move, then he makes them look like a fool. He is touted as a top LW prospect, but he has excelled as both a winger and a center. This gives teams looking for an all around power forward even more reason to draft him. Nichushkin's strengths seem to be his playmaking ability along with his potential size. Nichushkin weighs just over 200 lbs and will likely reach 215-225 lbs by the tie he finishes growing. However, Nichushkin is signed in the KHL until the 2014-15 season. Therefore, it could be a risky move for an NHL team if Nichushkin tries to stay in Russia. Given Nichushkin's talents, I see an NHL team taking that risk and selecting Nichushkin in the top 10 in this year's draft.
I'd like to know your take on Valeri Nichushkin as a prospect given all that you read. Perhaps you know more. Did you see him play? Do you know more about what his strengths and weaknesses may be? If so, please feel free to share it with the rest of us so we all can learn more. Otherwise, please leave your thoughts about Nichushkin as a prospect and the possibility of the Devils of picking him in the comments. Thank you for reading.