One of the most talked-about players in the offseason turned into one of the best players on the team during the season. Goose was loose in Jersey and here are three things to know about his first NHL campaign and the promise he's shown.
1. WITH MUCH FANFARE
It's no secret that the trade for Nikita Gusev might be one of the most fan-favored and encouraged transactions in recent memory. Since the reports began that Gusev was likely available via trade from the Vegas Golden Knights, Devils fans wanted him and they voiced their desires on social media relentlessly.
Although social media has little influence over front office moves in professional sports, it's encouraging to see pretty much an entire fanbase united in their approval over a transaction. The social media campaign was certainly appreciated in the Devils content offices, and the team announced the trade in an appropriate way, showing the fans they were heard:
'Goose' has continued to be a social media darling and fan favorite. It helps that he's such a good player and has a fantastic nickname [well, two nicknames…].
In the summer, the talented Russian was deemed "the best hockey player in the world that was not already playing in the NHL."
Video: SLOWDOWN SATURDAY | Gusev's goal
So, for a team looking to add talent and one with cap space and assets to spend, the marriage was a logical one.
Flash forward to July 29, 2019, and the trade was done. The Devils parted with their 2020 third-round pick and their 2021 second-round pick, in exchange for the talented winger. He was immediately signed to a two-year deal, worth $9 million.
As you'll see from Things two and three below, we think the move has worked out just fine.
2. AN ASSIST MACHINE
We all knew Gusev could score. He dominated the KHL, posting ridiculous numbers in his final season. He scored 17 goals and added 65 assists for a league-leading 82 points with SKA St. Petersburg. Was the large assist number a foreshadowing of how his first North American season would play out?
Gusev currently sits second on the Devils in overall scoring with 44 points in 66 games, one point behind Kyle Palmieri. That is incredibly encouraging for his first NHL season and would lead you to believe his arrow is pointed up.
Gusev has tallied 13 goals to go along with 31 assists. His 31 helpers are a team-high, seven more than the next player [Pavel Zacha].
As he continued to learn the NHL game, his chemistry began to form with players on the roster like Zacha and Jesper Bratt. We would expect his overall numbers to go up in year two now that he's exhibiting a higher comfort level in North America after a slower first few months of the season.
Video: BTS | Nikita Gusev gets the game puck
3. THE MAGICIAN
Word circulated around the Devils locker room quickly that Nikita Gusev was known as 'The Magician.'
Gusev showed from early on in camp and into the season and in practices that he had this innate ability to score odd goals - remarkable goals - and do wonders with the puck on his stick.
As the season rolled along, it became more apparent that Gusev has a special talent, but Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine made the magic even more public with his comments on March 3, ahead of the Devils game against Las Vegas.
"Gusev is special," Nasreddine said. "The way he sees the ice and the way he finds his options. We call him the magician and there's a reason for that. We like his progression, we like the way he's played lately."
A late surge under Nasreddine shows Gusev has the magic in him to be an impact player on the Devils roster. He finished the season with at least a point in eight of the team's last 10 games (3-8-11).