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Road to the NHL Draft: Valeri Nichushkin

By John Vogl

Valeri Nichushkin

Position: Right wing

Foreign team: Chelyabinsk (KHL)

Born: Chelyabinsk, Russia

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 196 pounds

2012-13 stats: 18 games, 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 2 (European)

Lowdown: So how can a guy with pedestrian stats and a reputation for inconsistency make his way into consideration for the first overall pick? Pure, unadulterated talent. Nichushkin is a slick-skating big man who has the ability to make defensemen look as if they’re standing still. Few players in the draft can match his skating ability, especially in one-on-one situations, where he also uses his long reach to get around goaltenders. The combination of size, speed and a passion for heading toward the net amazes scouts.

The 18-year-old played at three levels in Russia this season: junior, second division and the Kontinental Hockey League. He had six goals and nine points in 25 playoff games with Chelyabinsk, which traded him to Moscow Dynamo after the season.

That’s where the red flags come in. He’s tried to convince folks that he really wants to play in the NHL next season, but the KHL paycheck waves in the background. Nichushkin added he will skate only in the NHL or KHL; the AHL is not an option. He had just one goal and two points in six games at the world junior championships.

They said it: "When Nichushkin is at his best, he's by far better than Barkov, but he's not always at his best. He's a big, strong player with a high overall skill set. He can score the big goals and can dominate games." – Goran Stubb, NHL director of European scouting, to NHL.com while comparing Nichushkin to top-rated European skater Aleksander Barkov.

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NHL Entry Draft
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | [email protected]

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Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

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Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

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