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Draft Profile: Valeri Nichushkin

Wednesday, 06.26.2013 / 9:00 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Draft Profile: Valeri Nichushkin
Each weekday leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft on June 30, CarolinaHurricanes.com will profile one player we believe might be available for Carolina’s fifth pick. Previous Profiles: Sean Monahan | Nathan MacKinnon | Elias Lindholm | Seth Jones | Jonathan Drouin | Max Domi | Aleksander Barkov | Related Links: 2013 NHL Draft Preview | Hurricanes Draft History



It’s not too often a player of Valeri Nichushkin’s caliber would be available with the fifth overall pick.

Michael Smith
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But with the depth of high-end talent in this year’s draft class, that’s exactly what could happen.

The Chelyabinsk, Russia, native possesses the size, strength, speed and skill to become an elite power forward in the National Hockey League, and many are saying he’s the best Russian talent available in the draft since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were the first two respective selections in 2004.

“Everyone recognizes what a tremendous talent he is,” said Tony MacDonald, the lead amateur scout for the Hurricanes. “He’s a very skilled guy – he’s got size, he’s got speed and he’s got skill. He has that ability to dominate.”

The 6-foot-3, 196-pound winger uses his speed and hefty frame to shield the puck and plow to the front of the net, but he doesn’t shy away from making the crisp tape-to-tape pass, either.

“He’s a big, strong man,” MacDonald said. “When he turns it up a notch, he’s a very tough guy for defenders to handle with his skill and his shot.”

VALERI NICHUSHKIN
RIGHT WING
HOMETOWN: CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA
HEIGHT: 6-3
WEIGHT: 196
BIRTHDAY: MARCH 4, 1995 (AGE 18)

In the 2012-13 season, Nichushkin played in Chelyabinsk at three different levels. In 18 games with Traktor of the Kontinental Hockey League, the 18-year-old posted four goals and two assists (6 points) and was a plus-6. Traktor finished third in the Eastern Conference with 98 points. In 25 subsequent playoff matches, Nichushkin recorded six goals and three assists (9 points) and was a plus-9, helping Traktor advance to the Final, where they lost to Dynamo Moscow in six games.

Representing his country on his home soil in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, Nichushkin potted the bronze medal-winning goal 95 seconds into overtime against Team Canada. He finished the tournament with two points and a plus-5 rating in six games. In the 2013 Under-18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia, Nichushkin notched seven points (4g, 3a) in six games.

At the beginning of May, Nichushkin was traded from Traktor to Dynamo. His KHL contract raised some questions about his future intentions of playing in the NHL.

“Certainly, he still would have been given high consideration regardless, but it would be somewhat tempered by the fact that you’re going to be drafting a player that may not come to your team for two or three years and is under contract in another league,” MacDonald said.

Those concerns were eased at the combine, where Nichushkin declared his contract with Dynamo had been terminated, allowing him to play in the NHL in the 2013-14 season.

“Now that his so-called obstacles have been removed, he’s here in North America,” MacDonald said.

Furthering his intentions to play in the NHL, the Central Scouting Service’s second-ranked European forward is training at Power Train Sports Institute in Manheim, Pa., over the summer.

The Hurricanes are somewhat familiar with Nichushkin in that he shares an agent, Mark Gandler, with Alexander Semin, who re-upped with Carolina for five years in March.

“If you have a relationship with an agent, and the relationship is a reasonably good, working one, [the familiarity] doesn’t hurt,” MacDonald said.

Nichushkin’s draft stock has risen now that scouts and front office personnel are armed with fresh knowledge of his contract situation, so much so that he could perforate the first four selections on Sunday based on his natural talent and high-end ceiling alone.

“He’s made it very clear that he wants to play in the NHL,” MacDonald said. “Now, I think everyone is sort of reassessing their position on Nichushkin.”



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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81