NHL.com examines the fantasy hockey value of left wing Nikita Gusev with the New Jersey Devils and projects his statistics for the 2019-20 season. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.
[RELATED: Gusev traded to Devils by Golden Knights]
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GUSEV'S FANTASY VALUE WITH DEVILS
Gusev, a 5-foot-9 forward from Russia, has deep fantasy sleeper appeal after acquired by the New Jersey Devils on Monday. He signed with the Vegas Golden Knights during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs but did not play a game for them. The 27-year-old has never played an NHL game but is not rookie eligible.
He will join the fantasy top 250 based on upside after this trade, likely dropping Jesper Bratt out of the rankings as New Jersey's ninth player on the list. Gusev is also likely to surpass veteran right wing Wayne Simmonds because Gusev plays a more scarce position and has a higher scoring ceiling entering the prime of his career.
-- Most improved team gets better: The Devils have added another promising offensive player to go along with offseason additions in rookie center Jack Hughes (No. 1 pick in 2019 NHL Draft), elite defenseman P.K. Subban (acquired from Nashville Predators) and veteran right wing Wayne Simmonds (signed in free agency).
-- Past production: Gusev led the Kontinental Hockey League in scoring last season with 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists) in 62 games for SKA St. Petersburg. He also finished tied for the second most points at the 2019 IIHF World Championship with 16 (four goals, 12 assists) in 10 games for Russia.
WHERE GUSEV COULD PLAY
-- Even strength: Gusev is likely to slot into New Jersey's top six on a line with either Hughes or breakout candidate Nico Hischier. Gusev significantly boosts the Devils' scoring depth on paper and joins Bratt and Simmonds as candidates to play on the second line behind elite left wing Taylor Hall.
It's worth noting Gusev was unlikely to crack the Golden Knights' top six because of their stable trios (Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Mark Stone; Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith), so Gusev has much more fantasy upside after the trade.
-- Power play: Gusev can realistically compete to be the fifth member of the first power-play unit, which will almost definitely feature Hall, Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Subban. Gusev would likely compete with Hischier and Simmonds for time on the first unit, giving the left wing a chance to reach 50-55 points as a secondary scorer in his first NHL season. Gusev could also potentially play on the second power play with Hischier if Simmonds plays on the first.
FANTASY RISK INVOLVED
There are two recent examples of forwards who returned to the NHL from the KHL and have become fantasy standouts: Alexander Radulov and Evgenii Dadonov. Radulov made a fantasy impact with the Montreal Canadiens in 2016-17 before signing with the Stars and scoring 72 points in each of the past two seasons on mostly the top line with elite forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Dadonov, who returned to the NHL in 2017-18 with the Florida Panthers, scored 65 points that season before an NHL career-high 70 last season on mostly the top line with 90-point scorers Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.
But players who have come from the KHL with limited or no NHL experience do carry some fantasy risk. Two recent examples include forward Vadim Shipachyov, who was a top KHL scorer before signing with the Golden Knights for their first season but only played three NHL games before being sent down to the American Hockey League and eventually going back to Russia. Another example is Valeri Nichuschkin, who was not fantasy-relevant last season in his return to the Dallas Stars from the KHL.
DEVILS TEAMMATES WHO CAN BENEFIT IN FANTASY
-- Top two centers (Hughes and/or Hischier)
-- Elite power-play skaters (Hall, Subban, Palmieri)
-- Goalies (Cory Schneider, Mackenzie Blackwood)
WHO LOSES SOME FANTASY APPEAL FROM TRADE
-- Jesper Bratt (another deep sleeper) and/or Wayne Simmonds (bounce-back candidate)