DETROIT — Entering his second full season with the Red Wings, forward Gustav Nyquist isn’t showing any signs of the infamous ‘sophomore jinx’ after just two games this season.
"Of course you always want to start good. It feels nice, it gives you more confidence, especially as a team,” Nyquist said. “I think we've started good, playing good. Just small things that we can build off of that we can still work on but as a team, as a whole, I think we've been starting pretty good."
Scoring 28 goals and 48 points in 57 regular-season games during his rookie campaign, it may prove to be a challenge generating that type of production this season but Nyquist has scored goals in each of the Wings’ first two games.
“He’s one of the players who can play on all four lines,” captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “He’s a smart player, got a lot of skill. The goal he scored against Anaheim, not a lot of players in the league can do that.”
Nyquist has proven his ability to perform in high-pressure situations. Since being called up from Grand Rapids in November of last year, nobody has scored more game-winning goals for the Wings than Nyquist. He produced six game-winning goals last season, another game-winner in last Wednesday's season opener, and he had the go-ahead goal on Saturday before the Anaheim Ducks rallied late to win 3-2.
Going back to his AHL Grand Rapids days, Nyquist’s goal-scoring ability should come as no surprise. In 147 games with the Griffins, he scored 55 goals and 150 points. Rookie forward Andrej Nestrasil skated on a line with Nyquist for the first two games. The two also had overlapping stretches in Grand Rapids during the past three seasons.
“I think the biggest difference over the last two or three years I’ve seen him play is that he shoots the puck way more,” forward Andrej Nestrasil said. “He’s always been a fast guy with unbelievable skills. I think his shot-first mentality was the biggest change for him.”
Working on the point alongside defenseman Niklas Kronwall on the power play, Nyquist plays an important role on the Wings’ special teams unit.
“We have four forwards on the power play and I'm more of a defensive — I don't know if you can call it that — but I'm on the back end there, coming down the back side a little bit to be ready for a pass,” Nyquist said. “New position for me but we practiced it in preseason a lot. We've been practicing it in practices as well so getting used to it more and more."
The only other forward who spent more time on the power play last season than Nyquist was the now-absent Daniel Alfredsson. With that, Nyquist produced six goals and nine points on the man-advantage. Nyquist said it’s easy to play alongside talented players like Zetterberg and Johan Franzen on the power play.
“Playing with Hank and Mule, they're top players in this league, obviously, so I'm thrilled to play with those guys,” he said.
Nyquist will be relied upon for his offensive output this season even after the return of Pavel Datsyuk. His emergence over the last year as a productive forward in the NHL gives the Wings yet another viable scoring option up front.
“We’ve been in 10 games now, we haven’t scored. Eight in the exhibition and then two in the regular season and you don’t score real easy so far,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re looking forward to Pavel get back one day and get guys back in their right spots and might score a little more. I’m impressed with how hard we work. I’m impressed with our specialty teams, to be honest with you. Impressed with our team speed.”