With seven points in his last three games, Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin has drawn plenty of attention recently — and one of the main topics of conversation has been to find players with comparable skill sets.
Is he a dynamic puck carrier who sill sets up his linemates? Is he a strong two-way player who can cause some physical damage? Is he a sniper who can pick corners and cash in on chances?
He might be a little of all three.
He has been compared to Rick Nash for his mix of size and skill and to Eric Lindros for his head-down style of bulling forward. He has been compared to Evgeni Malkin, who has twice led the NHL in scoring and three times has ranked in the top two in MVP voting.
“Sometimes when he’s carrying the puck up the ice, it’s almost like Malkin,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “The kid’s 6-5, or whatever, and skates like the wind. I don’t think teams actually realize how fast he’s going until he skates by them.”
Nichushkin (officially listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds) was the 10th overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and always believed to be a great talent, but one that concerned various NHL clubs because of the “Russian factor.” Teams worried about him staying in the KHL — he won the Alexei Cherepanov Award last season as the league’s top rookie while playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk — yet Stars GM Jim Nill saw something too special to pass on.
“I think it’s no secret, everybody had him as one of the top three players in the draft,” Nill said, as per NHL.com. “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. Where we were picking, he was a player we couldn’t pass on. There was just too much there.”
Nichushkin has had his struggles this year, but blossomed once put on a line with Benn and Tyler Seguin. The trio combined for nine points in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Philly and Nichushkin now sits seventh among rookie scorers with 15 points in 27 games.