Colorado Avalanche: Pre-Hockey Hiatus Look at Valeri Nichushkin

Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin has shown himself to be a valuable contributor — not bad for a bust, hm?

The Colorado Avalanche, like the rest of the NHL, have put their season on pause. Players are still in their home cities have been advised they must stay in quarantine until April 15.

The whole world seems like it’s on hiatus, except for here at Mile High Sticking. We are going to keep up with our coverage. Right now, we’re taking a look at how players were doing before the hockey hiatus.
Here are some of the players we’ve covered so far:

Today, let’s consider one of the summer acquisitions, forward Valeri Nichushkin.

Brief History of Valeri Nichushkin

The Dallas Stars drafted Valeri Nichushkin in 2013 with their 10th-overall pick. He first signed a professional contract with a KHL team, Dynamo Moscow, but with the condition that it would be terminated if he made the NHL team.

He did. He made the team right out of training camp and went on to play 79 games with the Stars that season. Unfortunately, his second season was hampered by injury, and he only played eight games.

Nichushkin played one more season with the Dallas club to conclude his entry-level contract. However, he was dissatisfied with his role on the Stars, so he returned to Russia to play in the KHL. He played to season in Moscow for the CSKA before he returned to give Dallas another go.

Unfortunately, he didn’t find much success with the Stars and was a healthy scratch for many games. At the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, the Stars bought out the remaining year of his two-year contract.

The Colorado Avalanche signed Nichushkin to a one-year show-me contract on on August 19, 2019.

Valeri Nichushkin Stats with the Colorado Avalanche

Valeri Nichushkin had a good rookie campaign with the Stars — 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points. And then he fell of a cliff. In his eight-game season, he recorded just a single point. The following year, he had nine goals and 20 assists.

His return from the KHL was a disaster. In 57 games, he got just 10 assists — not one single goal. In fact, by the time he finished that season, he hadn’t scored a goal since March 4, 2016. Granted, he spent two years in the KHL, but he still played 73 games with Dallas without scoring a goal.

He played an additional 18 goal-less games with the Avalanche before scoring on November 23 against the Toronto Maple Leafs:

In all, he’s played 65 games for the Avalanche and recorded 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points.

Side note: Nichushkin’s celebration looks awful restrained for a player who hadn’t scored a goal in 91 games.

Evaluation of Valeri Nichushkin with the Colorado Avalanche

The Valeri Nichushkin experiment went much better than I expected. I called his acquisition a depth signing at the time. I figured his time here would go about as it did in Dallas. Instead, the 25-year-old Russian has been a pleasant surprise.

Nichushkin is the epitome of why you don’t give up on a player too soon. Players take their own time to develop. I’m sure the Dallas Stars couldn’t in good conscience keep a player who wasn’t producing. However, I’m also sure they’re kicking themselves that they couldn’t get production out of his sooner.

Valeri Nichushkin has earned the team’s trust. His one-year show-me contract is up whenever the end of the season is. I have confidence Colorado will tender him another offer.