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X-Factor: Nichushkin Finds Comfort Level With Stars

Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 10:11 AM / 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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PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 66 42 17 7 196 179 91
2 NSH 65 41 17 7 193 158 89
3 STL 63 40 18 5 197 159 85
4 CHI 64 38 21 5 188 152 81
5 WPG 65 32 21 12 180 175 76
6 VAN 63 36 24 3 182 173 75
7 MIN 63 34 22 7 179 163 75
8 CGY 63 34 25 4 178 162 72
9 LAK 63 30 21 12 171 164 72
10 SJS 65 32 25 8 185 183 72
11 COL 64 28 25 11 170 183 67
12 DAL 64 28 26 10 199 212 66
13 ARI 64 20 37 7 139 218 47
14 EDM 64 18 36 10 145 213 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 64 23 38 -4 61
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 64 15 37 -5 52
J. Klingberg 50 10 24 2 34
T. Daley 61 16 17 -10 33
C. Eakin 61 15 15 0 30
A. Hemsky 58 9 17 -9 26
A. Goligoski 64 2 24 2 26
A. Roussel 62 12 12 -10 24
S. Horcoff 60 8 13 3 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 26 13 10 .906 2.95
J. Enroth 13 25 2 .900 3.30
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