X-Factor: Nyquist a threat on Red Wings' third line
The Detroit Red Wings are a team renowned for moving slowly when it comes to developing their top prospects. Jimmy Howard and Brendan Smith are two of many who have spent extended periods in the minors developing their game.
However, Detroit quickened the pace with youngster Gustav Nyquist -- partly because he's forced the team to do so.
A 2008 fourth-round pick, Nyquist spent three seasons at the University of Maine, where he was a Hobey Baker Award finalist twice. He left school to sign with the Red Wings after the 2010-11 season and finished that season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, totaling four points in eight games.
It was a small sample size but gave a hint of what was to come.
He had 56 points in 58 AHL games last season, which earned him a promotion to the NHL. In 18 games with the Red Wings, he had a goal and six assists.
Sent back to the AHL to start the 2012-13 season, he remained there even after the lockout ended. But when the call came from the Red Wings on March 20, Nyquist was leading the AHL with 60 points in 58 games.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward has three goals and three assists in 22 NHL games, but there have been glimpses of the player he could become. He had points in three straight games in the first week of April, sending hints it won't be long before he has a similar break-out moment in the NHL that he already had in the AHL.
"I've got to find a way to learn how to use my tricks up here," Nyquist told USA Today. "You kind of have your moves and that's what you want to do. It's just a matter of trying to find space here to do them and finding the right time. You can't turn the puck over."
"Me and Brunner try to use our speed as much as possible, get the puck deep and work the [defensemen] down low; that's what all three of us are good at, and finding some soft spots in the middle for a shot," Nyquist told MLive.com. "That's a big part of my game, to use my speed, and that's what I'm trying to do."
"Nyquist obviously is a guy who's getting more and more confidence," Babcock told MLive.com.
Eventually Nyquist will earn his spot on one of the top two lines, but for now Babcock is going to use him on the third line. He'll move up the lineup occasionally, and see some power-play time; but it's all part of the slow development the Red Wings emphasize.
"Is [Nyquist] ready for the top six? I don't know," Babcock recently told MLive.com. "We'll find out if we need him in that spot. We've played him in the bottom-six forwards. When you don't slot people in the right spot, it's hard to be as good."
Nyquist is content to do the job his coach asks of him, but at the same time he feels he's ready to step up and provide more -- and the Red Wings certainly could use all the depth scoring they can get.
"I've got a great opportunity here to play and I'm just learning every game," Nyquist told MLive.com. "The more games you play, the more comfortable you feel. You know what you can do at certain times."