Top-ranked Russian prospect Nichushkin will play in North America next year


Valeri Nichushkin, the top-ranked Russian for the 2013 NHL Draft and No. 2 European prospect overall, says he’ll be playing in North America for the 2013-14 season.

Nichushkin, 18, reportedly had his contract purchased by KHL giants Dynamo Moscow for $10 million earlier this month. But despite that (reported) huge price tag, the former Traktor Chelyabinsk product says he’ll be leaving Russia upon getting drafted.

“I’ve already decided to leave for the NHL,” the 6-foot-3, 201-pound winger told Russian media outlet R-Sport. “I was told I could leave if I want.”

According to three different mock drafts, Nichushkin is projected to be a top-six pick (two NHL pundits have him going at No. 5 to Carolina).

In addition to his size, Nichushkin has been a productive scorer — he had six points in 18 games during the KHL regular season, then nine in 25 Gagarin Cup playoff games.

For an 18-year-old playing in what many consider to be the second-best league in the world, that’s quite a feat.

This announcement comes just prior to Nichushkin heading to Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine. It could be a move to ensure teams that he’s not a risky selection, given the number of young Russian prospects (see: Kuznetsov, Evgeni) that have chosen to stay in the KHL rather than head to North America.

It should be noted, however, that Dynamo did not respond to inquires about Nuchushkin posed by R-Sport.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci


Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.