Valeri Nichushkin does not have to do much to draw attention. The recently turned 18-year-old Russian winger is already six foot three and 200 lbs., and has drawn comparisons to fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
Nichushkin moved throughout the different levels of hockey in Russia this past season, playing for Chelyabinsk in the minor league (MHL) and the VHL, which is the second division or second highest league in Russia, much like the Allsvenskan league in Sweden.
In the KHL, he scored four goals and six points in 18 games, and six goals and nine points in 25 games for Traktor Chelyabinsk, which lost in the final round of the post-season to defending champions Dynamo Moscow.
Nichuskin's combination of size, speed, and his playmaking skills make him an ideal power forward who is able to push past defenders to the net, but because of his strength, he has been criticized for trying to do too much himself instead of passing the puck to his teammates.
...He is an excellent skater with a combination of quickness and agility topped of with great top-end speed. Nichushkin has a very dangerous shot as well as very good playmaking-ability. Thanks to his size, strength and brilliant puckhandling he can power through the defence on his way to the net. Nichushkin still lacks consistency and either the will or vision to share the puck when there is no opening instead of trying to finish every play himself. (Matias Strozyk, 2013)
Consistency is a frequent complaint with young players, especially considering Nichushkin bounced around quite a bit between leagues last season, and his defensive game also requires some improvement. The fact that his contract with Traktor extends through 2014-15 also makes him a gamble for some teams, but most observers and scouts seem to agree that his skill and versatility (he can play all three forward positions) make him worth the risk.
From The Score: