May 22, 2013, 1:55 PM EST
Valeri Nichushkin, the top-ranked Russian for the 2013 NHL Draft and No. 2 European prospect overall, says he’ll be playing in North America for the 2013-14 season.
Nichushkin, 18, reportedly had his contract purchased by KHL giants Dynamo Moscow for $10 million earlier this month. But despite that (reported) huge price tag, the former Traktor Chelyabinsk product says he’ll be leaving Russia upon getting drafted.
“I’ve already decided to leave for the NHL,” the 6-foot-3, 201-pound winger told Russian media outlet R-Sport. “I was told I could leave if I want.”
According to three different NHL.com mock drafts, Nichushkin is projected to be a top-six pick (two NHL pundits have him going at No. 5 to Carolina).
In addition to his size, Nichushkin has been a productive scorer — he had six points in 18 games during the KHL regular season, then nine in 25 Gagarin Cup playoff games.
For an 18-year-old playing in what many consider to be the second-best league in the world, that’s quite a feat.
This announcement comes just prior to Nichushkin heading to Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine. It could be a move to ensure teams that he’s not a risky selection, given the number of young Russian prospects (see: Kuznetsov, Evgeni) that have chosen to stay in the KHL rather than head to North America.
It should be noted, however, that Dynamo did not respond to inquires about Nuchushkin posed by R-Sport.
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