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X-Factor: Nichushkin Finds Comfort Level With Stars

Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 9:11 AM CT / News
By Brian Compton
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X-Factor: Nichushkin Finds Comfort Level With Stars
The adjustments to the NHL and North America were not easy ones for Dallas Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin, but the 19-year-old Russian seems to have found a comfort level as the Stanley Cup Playoffs approach. That is very good news for the Stars.

The Dallas Stars are young, fast and dangerous. It begins with their top-line punch of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, but there are more reasons why Dallas is back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six years.

One is right wing Valeri Nichushkin. The 19-year-old was selected with the No. 10 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft and immediately made the jump to hockey's highest level. He did not look out of place, scoring 14 goals and 20 assists. Even more impressive, Nichushkin boasted a plus-21 rating, showing the ability to play well at each end of the ice despite his young age. For most players his age, it takes some time to learn how to play responsibly in the defensive zone.

Now, on an even bigger stage, the Stars will depend on Nichushkin to help them advance past the Western Conference First Round. The skilled wing is likely to skate on the Stars' top line alongside the aforementioned Seguin and Benn, which should give Nichushkin an opportunity to convert on some quality scoring opportunities.

Nichushkin didn't enjoy as much success offensively as other first-year players, but he did finish in the top 10 in scoring among rookie players. He spent the early portion of the season trying to find chemistry with Seguin and Benn, which proved difficult at the start while Nichushkin tried to adapt to a new country and a new League. Things certainly got better as the season progressed, to the point where Nichushkin was selected to represent Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"There is no secret that I had a poor start of the season, but I stayed patient and worked on my game," Nichushkin told NHL.ru, the League’s Russian website. "I did not have any success right away, but it came to me with some time. It feels like it keeps getting better now. It is definitely getting easier since I see the results."

Nichushkin continues to adjust to life in North America. Not only has he tried to keep up with the pace of the game on the ice, but he has spent this season trying to improve his English while becoming acquainted with his new home. It can't be easy, but Nichushkin seems to be adapting well.

His size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) and skill are impossible to ignore, and there's no doubt Nichushkin is capable of having a huge impact on the outcome of the Stars' first-round series, and possibly beyond if they're able to have success in their first postseason appearance since 2008.

"I knew he had a lot of potential, but I didn't know he was going to become such a good player so early," said Benn, who compared Nichushkin to center Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. "For an 18-year-old from Russia, it's not easy to come over here -- the lifestyle and the North American game. But he's adapted really well to this game."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - ANA 78 49 22 7 227 216 105
2 x - NSH 77 47 22 8 220 188 102
3 STL 75 46 22 7 228 186 99
4 CHI 75 45 24 6 213 175 96
5 MIN 76 44 25 7 219 186 95
6 VAN 75 43 27 5 215 203 91
7 WPG 76 39 25 12 215 201 90
8 CGY 76 41 28 7 224 201 89
9 LAK 75 37 24 14 200 188 88
10 DAL 76 37 29 10 236 243 84
11 SJS 76 37 30 9 212 215 83
12 COL 75 35 28 12 205 209 82
13 EDM 75 22 40 13 181 254 57
14 ARI 76 23 45 8 160 252 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 76 28 44 -4 72
T. Seguin 66 34 35 -1 69
J. Spezza 76 16 41 -3 57
J. Klingberg 59 11 27 6 38
C. Eakin 72 17 19 -2 36
T. Daley 62 16 19 -9 35
A. Goligoski 76 4 31 0 35
A. Hemsky 70 11 21 -6 32
S. Horcoff 72 11 17 8 28
V. Fiddler 74 12 14 -6 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 34 15 10 .907 2.84
J. Enroth 14 26 2 .900 3.28
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