This was perhaps one of the more unexpected and incredibly surprising outcomes that Dallas Stars fans could hope for leading into this draft, with a top-four talent falling all the way to No. 10. Seth Jones slipped to No. 4, and quickly Stars fans felt frustrated seeing Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan go back to back to Carolina and Calgary. Yet the prospect of Nichushkin falling was suddenly very real and a run on defensmen set the wheels in motion.
When the Vancouver Canucks made an aggressive move, trading goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for No. 9 overall, there was a worry this was a move up to get an elite player that had fallen in the draft. Yet the Canucks selected Bo Horvat, and suddenly Nichushkin was inexplicably available.
Nichushkin is a hulking power forward who, while not putting up big numbers in the KHL this past season, absolutely oozes incredible potential with his speed, power and ability to put the puck in the net from nearly anywhere on the ice. His powerful stride sets him above all others, where he'll continuously explode up the wing and past defenders on his way to the net, and is nearly unstoppable when he gets the puck in tight.
There's talk that he'd need to work on his two-way play, but Nichushkin has shown an ability to backcheck when needed and to do so aggressively. This is a player that goes all-out when he's on the ice, and shows all of the signs of becoming a truly great power forward in the NHL sooner than later.
Speaking of which, Nichushkin has stated he prefers to play in the NHL next season and will not play in the AHL if he's not on the NHL roster.
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Despite the lack of stats, Nichushkin is generally regarded as a locked-in top five pick in this draft and a likely star in the NHL for some time to come. Scouts across the board are effusive in their praise for Nichushkin, and the only debate left is just where in the top 10 he'll fall when it comes time for teams to make their decision.
Nichushkin is an impressive power forward who has a ton of natural gifts. He could be a potential star, if not an elite power winger in the NHL. His best skill is his skating ability, as he is a true plus-plus skater that defensemen need to respect when he's barreling down the wing. If a gap gets too tight, Nichushkin will likely be behind the defender in no time. He is also a strong, 6'4'' pillar who loves to drive to the net. Combining that with his speed and skill, he draws a lot of penalties. Nichushkin's north-south game is his strength, but he has a high level of ability with the puck, with the capability to make players miss. He can make plays to his teammates, and he has good offensive instincts, although his hockey sense is an area of division among scouts. Some question his vision, feeling he can be a little selfish. Others think his hockey sense is above average. He has the ability to skate through an entire team, so it cannot be considered surprising that he tries to do a lot. One area of concern: he needs to improve his defensive play.
HockeyProspect.com Draft Guide (Ranked No. 4)
Valeri has tremendous size and has an effective skating ability that can best be compared to Alex Galchenyuk's or Evgeni Malkin's skating style where all are big bodied and have a crouched down skating style. All three have deceptive speed to go with their size. Valeri protects the puck and will fearlessly drive the net. Despite his size he is surprisingly elusive and can utilize his hands and some moves to evade checkers and score some absolutely beautiful goals. His physical game has grown a bit over the last few years he's more willing to give and receive hits than he used to be and makes him much more effective. It's still not a big part of his game, but his comfort level is increasing. Valeri is more of a goal scorer and has a shot that is already better than the average NHL players shot and will allow him to score right away in the league. He prefers to shoot the puck way over passing it, which actually results in Valeri having a deceptive ability to pass the puck and create plays. We've watched moments where he simply didn't have a shooting lane, sometimes he will force it, but when he passes he completes some moderately difficult passes tape to tape. Valeri is intelligent with his positioning.
International Scouting Services (Ranked No. 4)
Nichushkin is a phenomenal talent who has seen his stock fall and rise quickly all year long. He isn't your typical Russian offensive dynamo as he plays an intense two-way game and shows fantastic will to win in big games. He has great size and knows how to use it well to protect the puck. He is very strong on his skates and also has the quickness to burn opponents the second he gets them off balance. Nichushkin has eyes in the back of his head and is always in the right place to make a play but also always seems to be one step ahead of everybody else and very rarely hesistates to attack a situation when he identifities it.