Dallas Stars Defining Moments of 2013-14: Valeri Nichushkin Falls to Stars in NHL Draft

Bruce Bennett

In a stroke of good fortune and opportunistic positioning, the Stars landed the highly talented Russian with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft.

As part of our look back at the season that was, the DBD staff has put together a Top 10 list of the most defining moments of the season, moments that have an impact beyond the scope of just one season. Since most of these happened off the ice and built upon many of the previous moments, they are listed in chronological order.

The first five or so picks of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft didn't quite go the way Dallas Stars fans wanted.

Plano product Seth Jones didn't go first overall but didn't slide nearly far enough down the draft board for the Stars to even sniff a chance at him, heading to the Nashville Predators at the No. 4 spot. Then Elias Lindholm, a center many fans had their eye on as a future No. 1 option, went the very next pick to the Carolina Hurricanes. And another potentially NHL ready center, Seth Monahan, went to the Flames at No. 6.

(If you want to relive some of the reaction from our site, feel free to peruse the draft day discussion thread.)

With both Jones and Lindholm off the board, the cache of NHL-ready players was looking mighty thin, with only one high-end option left on the board. Surely someone in the three picks between No. 7 and Dallas' shot at No. 10 would grab him. When the Vancouver Canucks picked up the No. 9 pick by trading Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils, it looked all but certain.

But then the Canucks read out the name of Bo Horvat, and the Stars fans rejoiced, for Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin had fallen right into the Stars lap.

It's hard to overstate how this helped shape the tenure of the summer for the Stars, who had until that point unveiled a lot of front office and cosmetic changes but were still trying to work out the personnel situation. Sure, Jim Nill had acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar for a measly seventh-round pick in early June, but that was seen as a risky move to patch a present hole rather than building for the long-term.

Then Nichushkin fell into the Stars hands, starting off a week that would entirely reshape the top of the Stars forward lines.

In fact, Nichushkin became the first Stars player to be drafted and make his NHL debut for the Stars in the same year since Patrick Cote in 1995 (who played all of two games in the 95-96 season).  And despite the teenager playing a metric ton of hockey over the past 12 months, returns were very positive for his first NHL season.

In 79 games as a part of the rotating cast of Stars forwards not named Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin, Nichushkin scored 14 goals and added 20 assists with an over plus-20 rating and only eight penalty minutes. He added his first career NHL playoff points as well, fitting in nicely as the Stars fell in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks.

As part of the bigger picture, not only does Nichushkin look to figure prominently in the Stars lineup for years to come, but his selection further re-energized a fanbase that was still trying to figure out exactly what to think of Jim Nill. People started to get excited about being able to attended development camp specifically to see Nichushkin in person.

Of course, people were also excited about possibly seeing him line up alongside Vincent Lecavalier, who was the Stars current free agent target to fill the hole at No. 1 center. That ended up working out, right?

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