ColoradoAvalanche.com will look at some of the top draft-eligible prospects in the week leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft. The top three North American skaters and the top two European skaters according to NHL Central Scouting's final rankings will be profiled. Next up is the No. 2 ranked European skater, Valeri Nichushkin of Russia.
A powerful skater with the potential to become a big-time scorer in the NHL, Valeri Nichushkin has made a quite an impact on the 2013 draft class.
The 6-foot-4, 201-pound right-winger has all the tools to become an elite power forward in the league. The combination of size and skill that he brings to the game are difficult to defend against, and his strong, yet soft hands allow him to manipulate the puck while driving through opponents. His good hockey sense and playmaking abilities set him apart from others on the draft board.
"He's a big, strong player with a high overall skill set," said Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting. "He can score the big goals and can dominate games. He was a bit inconsistent at times, but he's very skilled and talented and, by far, the best Russian available in the draft this year. He had an outstanding playoff as well."
The International Scouting Service had Nichushkin ranked as the No. 4 overall skater in their final rankings, while NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the No. 2 European skater in their final list. In Central Scouting's mid-season rankings, he was ranked fourth amongst European skaters but saw his standing improve in the final list after a strong second-half performance in the Kontinental Hockey League.
The Chelyabinsk, Russia native was only 17 years old when he entered the KHL for the 2012-13 season. Nichushkin split his time during the year between the Traktor Chelyabinsk where he recorded six points (4g/2a) in 18 games and its semi-pro affiliate club Chelmet, recording 10 points (8g/2a) in 15 games. He also appeared in nine games for the Belie Medvedi junior team, tallying eight points (4g/4a).
The KHL playoffs allowed Nichushkin to notch slightly more ice time than he saw during the regular season. In 25 playoff games for Traktor, he recorded six goals and three assists while maintaining his record of no penalties in any KHL contests.
On the world stage, Nichushkin helped to propel the Russia Men’s Under-17 team to the gold medal, tallying five goals and four assists during the 2012 World Hockey Challenge.
In 2013, he competed for both the Under-18 and Under-20 Russian teams at the World Junior Championships. He scored seven points in his Under-18 showing (4g/3a) and while he only tallied two points in the Under-20 tournament, his lone goal could not have come at a better time for Team Russia. He scored the game winning-goal 95 seconds into overtime against Canada, securing the bronze medal for his country.
Will He Play In The NHL?
The big question surrounding Nichushkin over the past year was that if he was drafted by an NHL team, would he play in North America or would he stay in Russia?
Nichushkin answered the question before the scouting combine.
Traded to the Moscow Dynamo on May 1, he terminated his contract with the team soon after in order to play in the NHL season.
"It doesn't matter to me which pick I will be," Nichushkin said to NHL.com through an interpreter. "The most important thing is that the team that drafts [me] knows I will be a real valuable player."
However if he does change his mind and decides to go back to Russia, he would have to play for the Dynamo as per terms of his contract termination.
Highlights From His 2012-13 Season
- KHL Rookie of the Year (Alenski Cherepanov Award)
- World Junior Championship bronze medal (Russia)
- KHL Rookie of the Month (January, February, March)
Did you know?
- His last name is pronounced Knee-Chew-Sh-Kin.
- His good friend Pavel Buchnevich, the No. 10-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, has said that Nichushkin is “a really good person and really likes music. Everywhere he goes, he wears earphones … even in the shower.”
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