The Dallas Stars enter the year flying high after one of the better offseasons of anyone in the league. They saw an overhaul in the front office, a change behind the bench, and some changes on the ice that should not only lead to success this season, but consistently in the future as well.
Right in the middle of all of those changes is rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin. The 10th overall pick in this summer’s entry draft, the Stars believe they received a steal when the Russian fell into their lap earlier in the offseason, and they’re probably right.
Nichushkin dropped due to the well known Russian stereotype. Teams were unsure if he’d remain in North America, being too young to join the AHL, and were no doubt scared off by the fact that he could join the KHL and not want to return. The Stars took a chance.
However, almost immediately after selecting Nichushkin, who was considered a top five talent going into the draft, he made it clear that his intention is to play here. He’s looked comfortable and has looked very good for the Stars as the season has worn on.
Going into the new year, there’s no doubt he should be considered a, if not the, favorite for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. He’s drawn comparisons to Alex Ovechkin for his style of game. He’s a big body in the lineup, but he is supremely talented offensively, and has a willingness to play down around the crease and along the boards.
Add that to the fact that he’s going to have an opportunity to play big time minutes on the top line, with a couple of other premier talents, and he’s in a position to succeed unlike any other rookie in the league. His situation, and his skill set, make him the early favorite for the Calder, and until we see some of these first year guys step on the ice, he’s the early favorite by a mile.