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Wild draft pick Nesterenko is full of surprises

Minnesota plays long game with sixth-round selection who won't turn 18 until September

by Jessi Pierce / Special to

ST. PAUL -- You might be surprised to learn that Nikita Nesterenko hails from Brooklyn, New York.

You also might be surprised to learn that despite Nesterenko's parents immigrating from Russia in the 1990s, well before the 17-year-old was born, he doesn't speak much Russian.

Nesterenko plans to continue to surprise Wild fans as he works toward developing and becoming a part of the future of the organization.

"It's an exciting thing," said Nesterenko, selected in the sixth round (172nd overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft. "Just to have a team and organization put that confidence in you by choosing to draft you says a lot. It gives me the confidence going forward to become the player that they want me to be. I think I can definitely be that guy."

The 6-foot, 157-pound center honed his skills along the east coast, from Connecticut (Connecticut Oilers Bantam Major) to Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where he racked up 30 goals and 20 assists last season en route to an undefeated regular season. His play earned him Prep Player of the Year as selected by The Trentonian. 

Nesterenko will join the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League for the 2019-20 season before heading to Brown University in 2020-21. 

"I'm super excited to make that move to the [BCHL]," Nesterenko said. "It's going to be a great year and I think my game is going to continue to grow. I already think my game has improved through the years, and I think during development camp [I was] able to learn a lot and improve my speed, because [at camp] everyone plays at such a fast pace it forces you to keep up. 

"Each team I'm with I am always looking to learn and grow and play some good hockey. That's what it's all about." 

Nesterenko touts himself as an offensive player with good hands and good vision on the ice. He notes that making plays at a fast pace is one of his strongest abilities, and claims his game closely emulates Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. 

"He's very loose out there," Nesterenko said of Kuznetsov. "He has good hands with the puck, good vision. I just like the way he plays so I always try to model myself after him. 

"I think the one thing I need to work on is probably my strength. On and off the ice just working out, getting my battles down in the corners and just working on being a bigger, stronger player. Those are the things that need to improve the most in order for me to make that next step and I think in the [BCHL] with the Chiefs I'll be able to do that." 

And it's Nesterenko's dedication and commitment to furthering his career and hopefully one day wearing the Wild logo that should be a surprise to no one. 

"The end game is obviously the NHL," he said. "I know what I need to do to get there, and I just need to continue training and putting the time and energy in to making that happen. 

"I'm really excited to be here and be a part of it all and I can't wait to see where my career takes me." 

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