Last season (DAL): 0G; 10A – 10 Pts; -4 rating in 57 GP
This season: 5G; 3A – 8 Pts; +7 rating in 26 GP
Cap Hit – $850,000
Low risk, high reward – that is the type of reclamation project that Joe Sakic is getting a reputation for, with his latest few projects. Ryan Graves was brought in from the New York Rangers and he has matured into quite a reliable defenseman.
With the latest addition, various Dallas Stars fans were only too happy to offload Nichushkin, the 2013 10th overall pick, whose production had fallen from 14 goals and 20 assists from 79 games in his rookie year to no goals and 10 assists last season, punctuated by a stint at CSKA Moscow in the KHL. He was bought out by the Stars and the Colorado Avalanche inked him to a single year “show me” deal.
Initially, I thought that this was low risk, that probably wouldn’t pan out. Forgive me for being skeptical, but I’m not used to seeing these sort of deals pan out. That and I saw his stats of 1 assist to show for his first 16 games as an Avalanche, plus a near 100 game goal drought. Such things rarely inspire confidence.
He has played 10 more games since then and has finally managed to find the twine. A bunch of times. The best thing about Nichushkin is how he never gives up on the play. A big guy, who keeps pressing on for the goal is a sight to see. His goals aren’t going to be MacKinnon pretty – that’s not why the Avs signed him. He’s there for a bit of depth and now that he has been given an opportunity, I am excited to see where this will lead.
Originally I thought of Big Val as a very unlucky player in an Avalanche sweater. The amount of goals he could have scored in those first 16 games, but he drew a fantastic save from the goalie, plus other circumstances blocking his path to the net. But as the season has gone on, his efforts have been rewarded. I hope to see that continue.
Quarter-season Grade: A
He has been asked to “show me” how good of a hockey player he can be. He has done that, playing with a heart the size of a small country. He is finally being rewarded statistically, but as the Avalanche get healthier, his ice time will likely decline, as will his chances.
A brief note on 10th overall draft picks. Some people have referred to Tyson Jost (10th Overall 2016) as a bust. Perhaps they were comparing his play to Mikko Rantanen (10th Overall 2015) and not seeing as much growth as the Moose has shown.
Jost’s numbers have improved season-on-season in his brief career. Rantanen’s have as well, but they are somewhat of an anomaly, to get so good, so quickly. Nichushkin was rated well and played well for Dallas in his first season. Why his star waned over the remainder of his tenure there, I’m not sure. What became apparent was that a change of scenery may bring the best out of the man. I think we are reaping the rewards of that now. I’m not saying we need to move Jost to see his full potential. Let’s allow him time to mature – he will come good.