Turning to this month’s edition of Dobber top-200 forward prospects we look at two new entrants to the chart and a former top prospect makes a triumphant(?) return.
Valeri Nichushkin – DAL, up to 65 from Grad
This month biggest debut on the list, if you can call it that, is Dallas’ former first rounder Valeri Nichushkin. Since being drafted five years ago Nichushkin has taken an interesting journey during the course of his professional hockey career.
The big Russian raised some eyebrows by making the Stars right after being drafted and was more than just a bit player. He finished the season fifth on the team among scoring by forwards with a pretty decent total of 14 goals and 20 assists. His encore season was not nearly as successful as he missed nearly the entire 2014-15 campaign, save for eight games, after undergoing a procedure to remedy a sore hip. In his third NHL go-round Nichushkin scored nine times and tallied 29 points in 79 games, adding another goal in 10 playoff games. It was another successful season considering that he essentially missed an entire year of development.
Despite the apparent on-ice success, something was rotten in Denmark. Nichushkin and the coaching staff/management did not see eye to eye when it came to his spot in the pecking order in Big D. He up and packed his bags and signed a two-year deal in the KHL with CSKA Moscow at the end of the 2015-16 season. He hasn’t been seen from since but has put together a couple of very respectable campaigns. In year one of his contract in 2016-17 he posted 11 goals and 13 assists in 36 games and sported a team-leading plus-25. He brought it when it mattered most as he was one of the team’s most productive offensive players in the playoffs with a goal and four helpers in nine contests. 2017-18 has seen his point production dip a little despite seeing a nearly two minute per game increase in ice time over the previous year, as he end the regular season with 16 goals and 27 points in 50 games. Third on the team in goal scoring. But once again he’s been great in the playoffs as he currently leads the squad in points with one goal and five assists in eight games as CSKA Moscow is locked in a battle with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. His contract with CSKA Moscow is up at the end of this season and the Stars are reportedly willing to welcome him back into the fold.
Nichushkin has the potential to be a high-end point producer, and Lady Byng candidate, in the NHL if he can make up his mind about where he wants to play. He’s more of a playmaker as opposed to a goal scorer since he’s doesn’t shoot enough to put up elite goal totals. And don’t count on him to help you in the hit category. While he’s no Phil Kessel, he has a history of hovering around the hit/game mark.