Gusev sets Kucherov's point total as goal after joining Devils
Forward 'will try to follow' NHL MVP who had 128 last season, won Hart TrophyNHL.com @NHLdotcom
Nikita Gusev has yet to play a game in the NHL, but the New Jersey Devils forward has set a high standard for himself when it comes to his production this season.
"I can say anything now but first I need to play 5-10 games," Gusev told Sport-Express in Russia. "[Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita] Kucherov scored 128 points and this is a good goal, isn't it? So I'll try to follow him."
Kucherov won the Hart Trophy as League MVP with an NHL career-high 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 82 games last season.
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Gusev, 27, was traded to the Devils by the Vegas Golden Knights for two draft picks on July 30 and signed a two-year, $9 million contract (average annual value $4.5 million) the same day.
Gusev, who played for SKA St. Petersburg for the past four seasons, led the Kontinental Hockey League with 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists) in 62 games last season and is 10th in its history with 332 points (119 goals, 213 assists) in 391 games. He helped SKA St. Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup in 2017 and won the Golden Stick as most valuable player in 2018.
He's excited to join the Devils, who added defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade, forward Wayne Simmonds in free agency and center Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
"The Devils showed me they very much need me," Gusev said. "It's very important for me and it tells a lot. I followed them because my friend [defenseman Egor] Yakovlev played there so I have an idea what kind of a team it is. With all the new players I'm sure we can play well and win."
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Yakovlev had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 25 games with New Jersey last season.
"We watched NHL highlights in [the] SKA dressing room all the time," Gusev said. "I also followed [former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman] Igor Ozhiganov. And I like 10-minutes highlights where you can see much more details. ... So I followed guys and know [the] Devils pretty well."
Gusev has also spoken with Sergei Brylin, an assistant coach with Binghamton, New Jersey's American Hockey League affiliate, and is aware of the history the Devils have with Russian-born players.
"I talked to [Brylin], he said I can ask him for help," Gusev said. "... I know that [Alexander] Mogilny played [for the] Devils, also [Viacheslav] Fetisov, [Valeri] Zelepukin, [Ilya] Kovalchuk, [Alexei] Kasatonov. And Russians played there mostly successfully. It's really good that [the] Devils have good connections with Russians."
Selected by the Lightning in the seventh round (No. 202) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Gusev was traded to the Golden Knights for two draft picks on June 21, 2017, the day of the NHL Expansion Draft. He signed a one-year entry-level contract with Vegas on April 14 after he was named KHL MVP last season but did not play any games for the Golden Knights.
"No insult, absolutely," he said. "I'm even grateful for letting me go. I liked it there. Everyone was kind to me. I don't have any bad word on them."
NHL.com/ru senior editor Sergey Demidov contributed to this report