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2013 Draft Prospect Profile #5: Valeri Nichushkin

Valeri Nichushkin

Position: Right Wing
Team: HC Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
Age: 18
Date of Birth: March 4, 1995
Place of Birth: Chelyabinsk, Russia
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 201 lbs
Shoots: Left

2012-2013 Regular Season Stats:

18 4 2 6 +6 0

2012-2013 Playoff Stats:

25 6 3 9 +5 0

Valeri Nichushkin is an interesting prospect. He has the size of a legit NHL power forward, with room to fill out his frame, but he also has the high-end skating of a player much smaller. He has great size, his speed is excellent, and he has some ability to dangle on top of all of that. He has shown the ability to exploit gap weakness in opponents, and has used his speed as a main driver for his offensive game. He does show the ability to make plays, but is far from a polished offensive player in that regard.

He has some question marks, however, the biggest of which would be his transfer status. Nichushkin came out earlier this week in saying that he plans to come to the NHL after his draft, and Dynamo Moscow has indicated they will let him out of his contract. But, money talks, and BS walks, as they say. To say it’s a done deal would be a bit short-sighted.

The other areas for improvement for Nichushkin include his willingness to play two ways, and his overall hockey IQ. There are rumblings about his lack of vision, and also questions about his willingness to play a “team” game. That said, these issues are far from unanimous among scouts.

Nichushkin is ranked #2 in the final Central Scouting International Skater rankings.

Scouting Reports:

Nichushkin is an impressive power forward who has a ton of natural gifts. He could be a potential star, if not an elite power winger in the NHL. His best skill is his skating ability, as he is a true plus-plus skater that defensemen need to respect when he’s barreling down the wing. If a gap gets too tight, Nichushkin will likely be behind the defender in no time. He is also a strong, 6’4” pillar who loves to drive to the net. Combining that with his speed and skill, he draws a lot of penalties. Nichushkin’s north-south game is his strength, but he has a high level of ability with the puck, with the capability to make players miss. He can make plays to his teammates, and he has good offensive instincts, although his hockey sense is an area of division among scouts. Some question his vision, feeling he can be a little selfish. Others think his hockey sense is above average. He has the ability to skate through an entire team, so it cannot be considered surprising that he tries to do a lot. One area of concern: he needs to improve his defensive play.

Hockey Prospectus
Nichushkin checks into our rankings as the class of the Russian prospects in 2013. The rangy winger has a huge frame and oozes offensive potential. Nichushkin should be primed for more minutes this season and is coming off a year where he was a standout at the Under 17 level as well as playing up at the Under 18 level as an underager. Nichushkin has some dynamic ability and an ability to generate chances that could easily vault him into the Top 10, but the Russian factor will be a major concern with him – much like Anton Slepyshev a year ago who wound up being undrafted despite possessing Top 20 talent.

The Scouting Report (September 2012)

Why he’d be a good fit in Columbus:

To be honest, he possesses two things that would make him a good fit for the Blue Jackets: size, and speed. Nichushkin would bring some additional breakout speed on the wing for a Jackets team that can always use more, and also brings legitimate NHL size. The Jackets don’t really have any true power forwards anymore on their roster, and a player like Nichushkin would help to remedy that.

However, there are questions about his two-way play, which would be a no-no for this current Jackets make-up. This team plays a team game, and any questions about selfishness would be a red flag.

And finally, though it’s completely not fair at all to Nichushkin giving his stated desire to come to the NHL right away, the Jackets have had some bad luck drafting mercurial Russian forwards high in the draft.

Nichushkin in Action:

Talking Points