The Dallas Stars knew they were getting a skilled, talented player when drafting Valeri Nichushkin this year, but his improvement so far has been remarkable.
The Russian winger got off to a slow start in his first year in the NHL, but he started to pick it up sooner than expected and now that we are almost at the halfway mark of the regular season, there’s little doubt that the 18-year-old has been one of the top rookies in the league so far.
After playing 35 games so far, Nichushkin ranks in the top 10 in the following categories: goals, assists, points and plus-minus while averaging a little bit over 15 minutes on the ice per contest. He has been creating a lot of chemistry with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and if he continues to play like this, there’s nothing that suggests that he won’t be part of the conversation to win the Calder Trophy at the end of the campaign.
Sure, there have been other rookies that have been quite impressive and much more important to their teams’ success like Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon and San Jose Sharks’ Tomas Hertl, but they have been steady throughout the whole season so they could even regress a bit down the stretch. Nichushkin, on the other hand, has been showing improvement after each game and he could even put up better numbers than the other two players if he keeps getting consistent minutes in the Stars’ first scoring line.
Nichushkin might not win the trophy, but one thing is certain: the Stars drafted the Russian forward based on his huge potential and so far, all signs are pointing that this was a great move by the organization.