When evaluating the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and you go beyond the “Big 3” of Seth Jones, Nate MacKinnon and Jonathon Drouin, that’s where the real work begins. Most draft boards have Finland’s, Aleksander Barkov going no lower than 4th, but then you’ve got what many are deeming a “wild card” in this year’s draft: Valeri Nichushkin.
Standing at 6’3” and 205 pounds, Nichushkin has the NHL frame in place to be a power forward the Stars are in need of. Many of the scouts have mentioned the big Russian’s size and he uses that size to win puck battles in the corners and in front of the net. When you think he’s stopped, he’ll find a way to muscle the puck to an open teammate or even get the puck on net.
However, there is one glaring personality trait that no amount of training or maturity can change. He’s Russian. There are many comparisons ranging from Jordan Staal to Alexander Ovechkin in regards to Valeri’s size and skill, but being compared to Ovechkin isn’t always a good thing. With an “Ovechkin-type” you always have to be wary of the ego that comes with the hype. It’s been noted that with his playmaker style, Valeri can generally pass up an open teammate or shot for a highlight pass or deke.
The positive is in his existing contract with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL, Nichushkin is released to come to the NHL, but only the NHL. In a unique cooperative move between the KHL and NHL, Dynamo agrees to let Valeri come to North America, but only if he is at the NHL level. If a team looks to move Nichushkin to the AHL or Major Junior level, he is to return to Moscow.
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager, Steve Yzerman was asked about the arrangement that Nichushkin has, “If you can get a guy signed and control his rights, from my perspective that does have an impact,” said Yzerman. “You’re competing against the rest of the league for players, you shouldn’t exclude anyone.”
Valeri Nichushkin is anticipated to go anywhere between 3rd-5th. As stated before, I can see Dallas’ GM, Jim Nill, potentially making a move to jump up as high as 4th for the likes of Aleksander Barkov (see Barkov’s spotlight here), but I don’t honestly see Nill willing to spend the asking price to target Nichushkin. The Stars already have an abundance of left-handed wingers. And size definitely is not an issue for the Stars as there are very large bodies in the AHL/OHL who are just as proven as Valeri without the potential “Russian Risk.”
Nichushkin deserves a look by small teams like Tampa and maybe even a team like San Jose where their big bodies like Joe Thornton are getting up there in age. However, don’t look for Valeri Nichushkin to fit into the Dallas Stars’ plans.