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Nyquist awaiting 'new adventure' with Blue Jackets

Forward eager to help fuel retooled Columbus lineup

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. -- Gustav Nyquist plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets now. But at the Eastside Elite All-Star Challenge on Tuesday, the forward wore San Jose Sharks gear -- teal undershirt, black helmet, black gloves, black pants.

"Yeah, I know," Nyquist said, smiling. "It was pointed out to me by several people. I've got to get on that."

Please forgive him. The past few months have been full of changes.

Nyquist had been part of the Detroit Red Wings organization since they selected him in the fourth round (No. 121) of the 2008 NHL Draft -- three seasons at the University of Maine, two mostly with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, seven mostly in Detroit.

 

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He has spent recent offseasons training in suburban Detroit and is now playing in the Eastside Elite summer league.

"It's really felt like home here, after being here for such a long time," he said.

But he was a pending unrestricted free agent last season, and the Red Wings were going to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs. So they traded him to the Sharks for a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on Feb. 24.

Playing in San Jose was a good experience for Nyquist, who had appeared in the playoffs five times with the Red Wings, but not since 2016 and never past the second round. He had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 19 regular-season games and 11 points (one goal, 10 assists in 20 playoff games for the Sharks, who reached the Western Conference Final, when they lost to the eventual Cup champion St. Louis Blues in six games.

"I missed it for two years, but it's crazy how much you miss it after being in it for so many years," Nyquist said. "That was my first conference final. It makes you realize how hard it is to go all the way."

Nyquist left his family behind in suburban Detroit, and his wife, Danielle, had their first child, Charlotte, on April 29, between Games 2 and 3 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Colorado Avalanche. He flew home from San Jose, met the team in Denver, and had two assists in a 4-2 win at Pepsi Center.

The family reunited after the playoffs, and he signed a four-year contract with the Blue Jackets on July 1.

Much of the focus has been on what Columbus lost in free agency: goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, forward Artemi Panarin and centers Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. But they won the first playoff series in their history when they swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round -- after the Lightning had 128 points in the regular season, fourth in NHL history. The Blue Jackets have a strong core and young talent.

"I think looking at the team, we're in a great spot," Nyquist said. "A lot of the core players are younger in age, and that's what teams are looking for now, and we've got some great leadership, veteran leadership, on the team, so I think it's a great mix.

"Those guys leaving, a lot of media will talk about that. But I see it as a good opportunity for me personally coming in but also a lot of the guys that are on the team. It's going to give them a lot more opportunities. It's just going to help those younger guys take bigger roles."

No one should expect Nyquist to replace Panarin. But Nyquist did set an NHL career high with 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) in 81 games last season.

He wants to be in Columbus, too. Coach John Tortorella and several players have reached out to him, making him feel like he's joining a tightly knit group. He and his wife have found a house, a place to settle with their daughter, where they will move this summer.

"It's a new adventure," he said. "That's how we look at it. … It'll be fun to kind of get to know the place a little more. It's funny. I talked to a lot of people after signing there. Everyone says, 'Oh, that's a great city.' That's a good thing to hear. That feels good. I've had no one come tell me, 'Oh …' It's all positive things, so we're really excited."

It's going to be a blast, literally.

"That cannon is kind of annoying to play against," Nyquist said, smiling. "So it's kind of nice to have that when my team scores now."

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