Valeri Nichushkin

Nill: Stars knew ‘risk with the Russian factor,’ but couldn’t pass on Nichushkin


The Dallas Stars weren’t expecting to get a top-three talent with the 10th overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

But, according to GM Jim Nill, that’s exactly what they got in Valeri Nichushkin.

“We were excited. I think it’s no secret, everybody had him as one of the top three players in the draft,” Nill told the Stars website. “If he was playing [Canadian junior hockey] somewhere in Moose Jaw or Peterborough, he probably would have been a top-three pick. There is risk with the Russian factor, everybody knows that.”

The “Russian factor” reared its head earlier this month when Ilya Kovalchuk stunned the Devils by retiring with 14 years and $77 million left on his deal. He cited the desire to return to his native Russia and play in front of family in the country’s top domestic league, the KHL, as two of his major reasons for walking away.

In addition to Kovalchuk, Winnipeg’s Alex Burmistrov also returned to Russia this summer, as did Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn (though, to be accurate, Kostistyn is Belarusian and returned to the KHL, not his home country.)

Ruslan Fedotenko — who is Ukrainian — also left the NHL to sign with HC Donbass, a KHL team located in his native country.

So it’s no surprise Nill was very cognizant of the risks involved with drafting Nichushkin, one of the most highly-touted Russian prospects in years (and one that played in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk last season.)

The Dallas GM does have a way to entice Nichushkin to head to North America, though — the opportunity to play in the NHL next season.

Physically, he’s ready,” Nill said of Nichushkin. “He’s a man already.

“Where we were picking, he was a player we couldn’t pass on. There was just too much there.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

Leave a comment

While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks