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.
Jonathan Davidsson – CBJ, up to 98 from NR
The biggest riser in the Columbus system, and one of the biggest risers across the prospect ranks, has been Blue Jackets winger Jonathan Davidsson. The Swede has late bloomer written all over him. Passed over twice before being selected in his third year of eligibility by the Jackets in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, he’s shaping up to be a potential steal for Jarmo Kekalainen and Co.
During his first two years of eligibility, Davidsson skated for the Djurgardens U20 program and was one of their most productive players during his time there by posting 26 goals and 56 assists in 66 games. In the 2015-16 season he received a call up to the big club, skating in 12 games but was held off the score sheet. The season in which he was drafted, 2016-17, he began the year with the U20 junior team but his stay there was a short and effective one, producing at better than a point per game, totalling 12 points in just 11 games. After getting a taste of SHL action in 2015-16, Davidsson was called up and became a regular with the big club, playing just over 12 minutes a game, and performed admirably to the tune of three goals and nine helpers in 44 contests. This was good enough to catch the eye of some NHL scouts and finally got drafted.
As good as Davidsson was last year, it pales in comparison to how he’s performed this season as he’s been a revelation for Djurgardens. With his ice time seeing a bump of over two minutes per game, Davidsson has been one of the best players on his team sitting second in scoring with 10 goals and 21 helpers, the total of 31 points places him eighth in the SHL among U24 players, and is tied for second on the team with a plus-18
Him and his brother Marcus, a Buffalo prospect, both signed one-year extensions with Djurgardens a month ago so we won’t see Jonathan until at least 2019-20. But when he does come over he could be ready to make an immediate impact.
Alexandre Texier – CBJ, up to 142 from NR
Selected four rounds before Davidsson by the same Columbus Blue Jackets is the third-highest debut on the list, Alexandre Texier. He was an unconventional pick in that he was born and had been developed exclusively in France. Not a country that has an illustrious history of churning out NHL calibre players but Texier is looking to change that.
During his draft year of 2016-17, Texier competed for Grenoble in the top league in France and stood out as a junior-aged player, posting 10 goals and nine assists in 40 games and lead the team with 69 penalty minutes. Come playoff time Texier took his game to another level by adding five goals and an equal amount of assists in 12 playoff contests en route to a French Cup Championship. Given that he was the only player drafted from the French league, it should come as no surprise that Texier was the top junior aged scorer in the league and won the Jean-Pierre Graff trophy as the best young player in the league. Seeing a higher level of competition, Texier made the move to Finland to compete in the Liiga coming to terms on a two-year pact with KalPa. It’s proving to be a pretty shrewd move on his part. In his debut season in Finland Texier has amassed 13 goals and nine assists in 53 games. These 22 points place him seventh in the league among U20 players and his 13 goals are good for third highest mark on his team.
A bit of a wildcard when he was drafted, various rankings had him all over the place primarily due to the quality of competition he was facing on a nightly basis. But the Blue Jackets took the plunge and it’s looking like it might be a smart pick at this point in time.
As always thanks for checking out this week’s edition of The Journey. Give me a follow on Twitter @BradHPhillips. Enjoy your weekend!
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