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Valeri Nichushkin '50-50' to return to Stars next season, scout says

No. 10 pick in 2013 Draft played in KHL after three years with Dallas

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Dallas Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin could return to the NHL next season after playing this season in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell told on Friday at the NHL Scouting Combine that it will be up to Nichushkin.

"He's in Russia now and it's 50-50 on whether we get him back next season," McDonnell said. "In the end it'll be up to him if he wants to come back."

Nichushkin has one year left on a two-year contract he signed with CSKA on Sept. 20. He had 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 36 KHL games.

"[If he does return], coach Ken Hitchcock and him will have to forge a relationship," McDonnell said. "If you watch Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that's what a Val Nichushkin can be in the end. But it's whether he has it in his heart. If he wants to do it, he can do it.

"It'd be huge for our franchise if we can get him back."

Nichushkin, 22, was selected No. 10 in the 2013 NHL Draft. He had 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) as a rookie in 79 games in 2013-14 but missed all but eight games in 2014-15 because of hip surgery, and had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 79 games in 2015-16.

The Stars, who retain Nichushkin's NHL rights until he can become an unrestricted free agent at age 27, would need to protect those rights in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft. If they leave him unprotected, the Vegas Golden Knights could select him even if he decides to play in the KHL for another season.

Stars captain Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin often were linemates with Nichushkin during his time with Dallas.

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