NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
As Gustav Nyquist walked around the NHL's New York office earlier this month, passing Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, P.K. Subban, Henrik Lundqvist, Patrice Bergeron and Claude Giroux, he kept thinking the same thing.
"I don't know why they want me here," Nyquist said with a smile during the NHL's annual Player Media Tour.
The answer was simple.
Nyquist scored 28 goals in 57 games last season, at times singlehandedly carrying the Detroit Red Wings, particularly during a 10-game stretch late in the season when he scored 12 times. He was arguably the biggest reason why Detroit extended its streak of consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to 23.
Nyquist is 25 years old, and he could become the new star in Detroit if he does it again. The "if" as it relates to Nyquist is one of the Red Wings' biggest wild cards heading into the season.
General manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock have no doubt Nyquist will score again this season, but they aren't banking on him doing it at the same pace, and neither is ready to raise the bar too high for Nyquist just yet.
"Things tend to find their water level," Holland said.
Nyquist scored his 28 goals on 153 shots, a remarkably high .183 shooting percentage. He scored his 12 goals in that 10-game stretch from March 16-April 2 on 30 shots.
"I think it's going to be a little tougher this year," Nyquist said. "Maybe no one really knew about me last year when I came up, and scoring those goals, maybe guys will take a little more notice and I'll be up against tougher D-men, stuff like that. That's just going to make me have to work harder for the same success. It's only going to help my game get better, I think."
Holland said the Red Wings would take a high mark of 60 points from Nyquist. If he plays a full season and is among Detroit's top-six group of forwards, he should be able to hit that number and possibly blow right past it.
Nyquist, after all, has produced offense at every level, including the American Hockey League, where he had 143 points in 137 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He also had 144 points in 113 games at the University of Maine.
"We talked to him a lot about shooting the puck more," Holland said. "Lots of high-skilled Europeans are so good with the puck that they want to work their way in close, but it's a hard League to work your way in real close. What ended up happening last year with Nyquist is he started to shoot the puck, he got real positive results, and the more positive results you get, the more you shoot. We hope and think he can score more in the NHL than the other leagues, but at the same time, the more you score, the more attention you're going to get from the other team.
"He's got high hockey IQ, tremendous hands, and the ability to do things and read things in the offensive zone, gifts that lots of people don't have. If he's on the first line, playing with [Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg], and he's on our first power play, well he's going to score more. It's about opportunity."
Nyquist said his confidence is high now because he proved to himself, and everyone else, that he can score and be a consistent factor in the NHL. He also agreed with Holland, saying he thinks his best attribute is his ability to think the game and react quickly because of his intelligence.
"I think I see the ice pretty well and understand different situations," he said. "I feel like I'm a pretty smart player out there."
However, he did admit he feels pressure -- not nerves -- to prove last season wasn't a fluke.
"Yeah, otherwise someone else is going to steal your job," Nyquist said. "I want to be a top-six forward on our team, for sure. I want to be a player they can count on."
There's little doubt he will be. The question now with Nyquist is what is realistic?
"I don't think I'm scoring 80 goals this year," he said.
If he does, he can count on getting invited back to the Player Media Tour next fall.