Who Is Valeri Nichushkin?

Dobber Sports



Jonathan Briggins looks at a top prospect for the 2013 Draft.

If you asked a casual hockey fan who the top rated players for the 2013 NHL entry draft are, chances are the most frequent answers would be Portland Winterhawks D-man Seth Jones and the Halifax Mooseheads forward duo of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Take a peak at International Scouting Services March rankings and you'll see Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin at number two, his second month in a row that he has been directly behind Jones.


Canadians, especially Carolina Hurricanes prospect defenseman Ryan Murphy have probably tried hard to block the name Nichushkin from their collective memories. He blew past Murphy to score the overtime goal in the bronze medal game against Canada in the 2013 World Juniors. In that same tournament, Nichushkin was suspended one game for driving Calgary Flames draft pick Tyler Wotherspoon's face into the boards and glass.


Size and strength


Nichushkin is a big guy, with a height of 6'4" and weighing somewhere between 192 and 202 pounds. (ISS has him listed at 202, the KHL has him listed at 192). This season he has progressed through three tiers of Russian hockey, playing for KHL team Traktor Chelyabinsk, its second level affiliate Chelmet Chelyabinsk of the VHL and major junior team Belye Medvedi.


Nichushkin has scouts gushing because of his ability to dominate games with his size and strong skating. The bronze-winning goal is a great example of him using his size, speed and strength to get the job done.


Moving up ISS rankings



From October to March, Nichushkin has jumped from #14 to #2. ISS have called Nichushkin a "human highlight reel" gushing about his ability to take over a game and dominate. His two goals on March 8 versus Avangard are two examples of his power and drive to the net.


He has already surpassed his regular season goal total in the KHL with 5 goals in 12 games. In the regular season he played 18 games scoring 4 goals and adding 2 assists.



ISS Ranking






















Nichushkin's rising rank also is attributed to a strong showing at the U-18 Five Nations cup where he was named best forward and finished with 5 goals and 6 assists.


NHL Central Scouting hasn't been quite as bullish, placing him number four for International Skaters in its midterm ranking. This is behind Fins Aleksander Barkov and Rasum Ristolainen and the Swedish Elias Lindholm. TSN scout Craig Button has Nichushkin at number five on his list, behind Barkov, MacKinnon, Drouin and Jones.


Only pick if you love risk


For both NHL GMs and fantasy owners, the big elephant in the room is his contract status. There was talk he would play in the CHL this season, but instead he signed a three year deal with Traktor in the KHL.


Managers in seasonal leagues won't need to bother considering Nichushkin come draft time next year. In keeper and dynasty leagues, managers will only want to grab him if they have room on their roster to hold onto a player for a few years and have the patience to wait and see what happens. The KHL will undoubtedly try to keep their prized prospect on Russian soil as long as possible. It's a high-risk, high-reward option that will take considerable patience.


The risk is comparable to his Chelyabinsk Traktor teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Washington Capitals 2010 first rounder. Kuznetsov signed a two year deal with Traktor June, 2012 and we may have to wait until after the 2014 Olympics to see him lace up in North America.


While Nichushkin is tempting because of his skill and strength combination, pick somebody who you know will be in the NHL sooner rather than later, unless of course you have the roster room and the patience of a saint. 2015 is a long way away, and that's assuming he doesn't stick around in Russia longer.

Previously from Briggins:


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