Leading into the 2013 NHL Entry Draft on June 30 in Newark, N.J., nashvillepredators.com is going to provide an in-depth look at each of this year's top six prospects.
In this week's edition, we preview Russian forward, Valeri Nichushkin.
6-4, 201 lbs. • Right Wing • Shoots: Left
Born: March 4, 1995
Hometown: Chelyabinsk, Russia
Ranking: No. 3 European Skater
Prospect at-a-glance: Valeri Nichushkin has the size of a legit NHL power forward, with room to grow, but he also has the high-end skating and Hockey IQ. In 18 regular season games with Chelyabinsk, the 18-year-old put up six points (4g-2a) and a +6 rating. He added nine points (6g-3a) in 25 Gagarin Cup games. In six games for bronze medal-winning Russians at the WJC, he scored two points (1g-1a) and was +5 with 25 penalty minutes.
"He’s a guy with all kinds of talent," USAToday's Kyle Woodlief said. "He’s big, he’s a tremendous skater, but in February at the Under-18 tournament, that was maybe the most dominant performance I’ve seen at any of those Under-18 or World Junior tournaments. He absolutely took over the tournament. He was good on the forecheck, he was finishing checks, he was making plays or scored big goals in the third period when his team was behind, he never quit on a shift and he was just spectacular. I think when you see that potential and the level he played at in the Russian men’s league, you see a very good prospect."
"He's your classic Russian forward with speed, talent and skills," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. “He can score the big goals and can dominate games. Again, he was a bit inconsistent at times, but he's very skilled and talented and, by far, the best Russian available in the draft this year."
“The Russian winger’s size, talent and power-forward potential has him as a bona fide Top 5 prospect who could challenge any player ahead of him,” TSN Analyst Bob McKenzie said.
“He’s a game-breaker,” Scouting Director for International Scouting Service Dennis MacInnis told the Toronto Star. “He looks an awful lot like (Evgeni) Malkin out there. He’s the wild card of this whole thing. He could go anywhere from 3 to 5. If he slips farther than that, somebody has made a big mistake.”
Something you may not know: Nichushkin made his KHL debut as a 17-year-old; splitting the season between Traktor Chelyabinsk and its second-tier club Chelmet. Nichushkin was ranked fourth amongst European skaters in Central Scouting's mid-term rankings prior to the 2013 NHL Draft, and second in the CSS final rankings. His good friend Pavel Buchnevich, the No. 10-ranked European skater by Central Scouting, has said that the 6’4” winger is “a really good person and really likes music. Everywhere he goes, he wears earphones … even in the shower.”
Comparable player(s): Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington), Rick Nash (N.Y. Rangers)
USAToday: Ranking the Top 10 Forwards in the 2013 NHL Draft
NHL.com: Nichuskin at the combine
Hockey Prospectus: Top 100 Draft Prospects: 1-5
NHL.com: Barkov, Nichushkin Lead European Prospects
TheStar.com: NHL draft: Valeri Nichushkin, Aleksander Barkov intriguing alternatives to Big Three
Video: Nichushkin at the Combine
Video: Youtube.com: Valeri Nichushkin – Rising Star