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High praise: Nichushkin’s playing style ‘almost like Malkin,’ says Stars captain Benn

Dec 9, 2013, 11:12 AM EDT

Nichushkin Getty Images

With seven points in his last three games, Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin has drawn plenty of attention recently — and one of the main topics of conversation has been to find players with comparable skill sets.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Is he a dynamic puck carrier who sill sets up his linemates? Is he a strong two-way player who can cause some physical damage? Is he a sniper who can pick corners and cash in on chances?

He might be a little of all three.

He has been compared to Rick Nash for his mix of size and skill and to Eric Lindros for his head-down style of bulling forward. He has been compared to Evgeni Malkin, who has twice led the NHL in scoring and three times has ranked in the top two in MVP voting.

“Sometimes when he’s carrying the puck up the ice, it’s almost like Malkin,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “The kid’s 6-5, or whatever, and skates like the wind. I don’t think teams actually realize how fast he’s going until he skates by them.”

Nichushkin (officially listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds) was the 10th overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and always believed to be a great talent, but one that concerned various NHL clubs because of the “Russian factor.” Teams worried about him staying in the KHL — he won the Alexei Cherepanov Award last season as the league’s top rookie while playing for Traktor Chelyabinsk — yet Stars GM Jim Nill saw something too special to pass on.

“I think it’s no secret, everybody had him as one of the top three players in the draft,” Nill said, as per NHL.com. “If he was playing [Canadian junior hockey] somewhere in Moose Jaw or Peterborough, he probably would have been a top-three pick. There is risk with the Russian factor, everybody knows that. Where we were picking, he was a player we couldn’t pass on. There was just too much there.”

Nichushkin has had his struggles this year, but blossomed once put on a line with Benn and Tyler Seguin. The trio combined for nine points in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Philly and Nichushkin now sits seventh among rookie scorers with 15 points in 27 games.

  1. lowenni - Dec 9, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Once this kid really adjusts to the game and gets everything together, he’s going to be unstoppable. His shooting and passing can still develop but he is unbelievably fast for someone at any size. Him, Benn, and Seguin could be one of the scarier top 3 forwards for a while.

    • shaundre93 - Dec 9, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      What was the line in Ottawa a few years… Heatley Spezza Hossa? This could be an unreal trio like that. They’re big, fast, can all shoot, can all pass… Look out for Dallas in a year or two

      • jb8588 - Dec 9, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Believe you mean Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson. Another line was great for a while was the Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line in San Jose too.

  2. alicesrightfootesq - Dec 9, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Lol at the teams who passed on this kid.

  3. darksidecowboy - Dec 9, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Only 18!, Imagine Nichushkin filling out in a couple of years 6’5″ and 215 ilbs. To the naked eye when you see him play he’ll looks slow until he starts skating then it’s like where’s this coming from? Stars were lucky to have him fall to 10, and even luckier to get GM Nill from Detroit to have the balls to take a russian early.

  4. smgraff4 - Dec 9, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    To make any pick a team has to know what it’s doing. The new Stars’ ownership, unlike the Sabres ownership, knows what it’s doing–everything from the sweaters (which are massively upgraded) to the hiring of Joe Nill as GM (and how he’s handled the Stars’ players) shows the new ownership gets it. Getting Nichuskin, if he continues to develop, which seems like (for right now) he is doing, is very much proof that these are not Tom Hicks’s Stars.

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