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See how thrilled the brass of the Dallas Stars looks in this photo? There's a good reason for that. They managed to secure a top-three talent with the No. 10 pick at the draft.
If you asked the managers of the nine teams ahead of the Stars why they passed on Nichushkin, the answer would be a simple and silly one: "He's Russian" is really all it boiled down to. Squads were afraid that the youngster would prefer to stay at home and develop in the KHL.
He's all but squashed those fears this summer and has been impressive for Dallas during early walkthroughs. Doug Lidster, an assistant coach for the AHL's Texas Stars, recently spoke to NHL.com to that effect:
I think his skill level is obvious, but there have been other things that maybe the casual observer doesn't see. In our power play walkthrough on the first day, a defenseman lost the puck on a drill. Right away he grabbed another one, threw it back to the guy that fumbled the puck and said in broken English, 'Hey, let's do it again.' He took charge right away.
Later on in practice, a defenseman missed a shift and didn't jump out there so Valeri jumped out and took charge. I like that. I like the fact he's not sitting back despite being in a foreign country, working on a second language and being with a new team. He's jumping out there trying to become a better player, trying to help his teammates be better. That's what has impressed me.
If Nichushkin can continue to make an impact like that in training camp, there's little chance that Dallas lets him head back to the KHL for another season. This is a situation that Defending Big D summed up nicely here.