Player: Valeri Nichushkin
Drafted By: Dallas Stars (10th overall)
Position: Right Wing
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 2 European skater
Height/Weight: 6'4'', 202 lbs
DOB: March 4, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: KHL, Traktor Chelyabinsk
After getting his start with Traktor Chelyabinsk's U-18 team and representing Russia on the national stage through various tournaments, Valeri Nichushkin made his KHL debut as a 17-year-old in 2013—a rather remarkable feat when you figure that the league is arguably the second best in the world.
While scouts and onlookers would have forgiven him for failing to make an impact against some of the best players outside of the NHL, Nichushkin didn't appear out of place with Traktor Chelyabinsk.
North American fans quickly became aware of Nichushkin during the World Junior Championship. He was one of the most impressive forwards in the tourney, aiding Russia to a bronze medal while notching two points. While that total itself doesn't jump out at you, Nichushkin's level of play was seemingly higher than almost everyone around him on the WJC stage.
Plus, his only goal was scored in overtime against Canada to clinch the bronze.
Full Scouting Report
Nichushkin is another European forward that takes what some North American fans assume to be true about Russian-trained players and chucks it out the window. He doesn't play an overly fancy east-west game. Instead, the kid is an absolute bull with the puck and has no problem carrying it into high-traffic areas.
He has NHL-ready size, standing at 6'4'' and weighing in at more than 200 pounds. While he leans heavily on a power-forward mentality, Nichushkin still has magnificent hands and knows how and when to make plays to his teammates.
Some scouts like to call him confident when talking about his hockey IQ, while others insist he's a bit of a puck hog. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, it's impossible to deny that Nichushkin's abilities in the offensive zone are way above average.
He can hit, score and pass at a high level and could end up being one of the most outstanding selections from this draft over time.
NHL Player Comparison
Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes. While his upside may be that of an Evgeni Malkin, Nichushkin projects safely as a Staal-type power-center.
Given that he has some KHL action under his belt and didn't look out of place at all, it's reasonable to expect to see Nichushkin in the NHL as early as the 2013-2014 season. Especially since he's stated plainly that he'll head back to Russia for another year if he's assigned to the AHL at any point.
All-world Russian/power forward/scoring machine. Scouts have said that Nichushkin provides a style of play somewhere between Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin. Lofty skates to fill for any teenager that has yet to play an NHL game, but the blazing talent, speed and offensive ability is there.
If he continues to work hard and improve his game once he reaches North America, the sky really is the limit for Nichushkin.