After four games, one shot on goal, zero points and a minus-1 rating, Valeri Nichushkin has been made a healthy scratch by the Dallas Stars.
Nichushkin, 18, was Dallas’ first-round pick (10th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and viewed as one of the most NHL-ready prospects in his class, thanks to his size (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) and the fact he’d played against men in the KHL prior to coming to North America.
But after four games, things have changed.
The Stars are giving Nichushkin a chance to “take a breath,” according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. The Russian rookie has been given pretty solid minutes thus far — he’s averaging 14:37 per game — and now it appears it might’ve been a case of too much, too soon as the club will insert a more veteran presence, 24-year-old Lane MacDermind, in Nichushkin’s place.
News of Nichushkin’s scratch comes at the same time fellow Russian prospect Nail Yakupov returns to the Edmonton lineup after being held out of the past two games. While their situations hardly mirror each other — Yakupov is two years older, played junior hockey in Canada and has nearly 50 more games of NHL experience and — it’s likely both will be tied to the same narrative.
In a less ballyhooed storyline, Nichushkin will miss his opportunity for tonight’s showdown with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the ’13 draft. MacKinnon and Nichushkin are just two of seven players from this year’s draft currently playing in the NHL, along with Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Rasmus Ristolainen.