Valeri Nichushkin just did the Edmonton Oilers a big favour

The x-factor at the top end of the draft this year was, without question, the status of Russian prospect Valeri Nichushkin. Playing in the KHL and under contract for time to come, there were significant red flags for any NHL team interested in picking a guy who most rate with the top four (Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov) in terms of talent.

Nichushkin made it easier for everybody today by telling a Russian newspaper he’s leaving the KHL for the NHL next year, and further that his team, Moscow Dynamo, was willing to release him from his contract. In so doing, he also made the draft much more interesting for the Edmonton Oilers.

Nichushkin’s Comments

Via the delightful Google Translate, here are Nichushkin’s comments about leaving:

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I had already decided that leave in the NHL – said Nichushkin. – In the" Dynamo "calmly reacted to this: I was told that I could leave if I want. No legal problems there. Contract with" Dinamo "will terminate, and I’m going free agent. was lucky that I went to the club to make concessions. We agreed that they would let me go, but if the ocean something goes wrong, I’m right back to them.

It’s always a little dicey using Google Translate to find out what Europeans are saying in the European press, but the message here seems clear enough: Nichushkin wants to play in the NHL next year, Dynamo is okay with that, and he’ll only be back in the KHL next year if he doesn’t make a major league roster.

Later in the piece, Nichushkin specifically mentions Tampa Bay and Carolina as teams with possible interest in him. Tampa Bay isn’t a big surprise – Al Murray, their director of scouting, raves about Nichushkin – but Carolina hasn’t drafted a Russian in ages, and certainly not so early. Talent-wise, it’s understandable why the Hurricanes would be interested, though.

The Situation

The top tier of the draft at this point is basically the five names above, but Nichushkin had major slide potential given his contract status in the KHL. After those five, Elias Lindholm is generally seen as the consensus number six, Sean Monahan the number seven, and then a group of defencemen (Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen) and winger Hunter Shinkaruk.

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The Oilers are rumoured to be after centre Sean Monahan, but prior to today perhaps the most likely scenario was the top four being drafted in order, followed by Lindholm, followed by Monahan, leaving the Oilers with a choice between Nichushkin and a bunch of blueliners.

Now, not only is it more likely that the Oilers still have the option of picking Monahan when pick number seven rolls around, but if Nichushkin somehow does slide he should be more attractive both to them (long-term, a 6’4” winger with high-end talent certainly could be a fit on the Oilers’ depth chart) and to other teams if they decide to trade the pick down as general manager Craig MacTavish has suggested.

All in all, this is a very good day for Edmonton.


Don’t forget that it’s never too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

One of the things that’s always fun to watch for is good young players falling out of favour in other NHL cities. That’s exactly what Thomas Drance is doing and in Three Young Forwards the Canucks Should Target he identifies a trio of talented young players that might be ripe for trade:

Trading for former first round picks is demonstrably a risky game, but it’s a risky game the Canucks should be willing to try their hand at this summer. Here’s a list of three young forwards, with top-ten pick pedigree who, for whatever reason, appear to have fallen out of favour within their organizations. These players won’t come free, or even cheap, but could help the Canucks jump-start a youth movement going forward.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:

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  • tsg

    I think people have a tendency to underestimate just how good Yakupov is.

    He led the team in goal scoring.

    He scored at a full season pace of approximately 30 goals in his rookie season.

    He did this while often playing 3rd line minutes, and without being a feature on the first line powerplay for much of the year.

    Wicked good player.

    • OilersBrass

      McKinnon got compared to Sidney Crosby too. Seth Jones is a stud. Barkov is producing big time in a mens league, and Drouin maybe as a good as Yakupov.

      Just because Yakupov is great doesn’t mean that these players are any less. Barkov and McKinnon Jones and Drouin have all the tools to be outstanding and be able to contribute next season too.

      • jonnyquixote

        The major advantage with Yakupov is that he is a lot more ‘proven’ at the NHL level. That one season is massive when it comes to ‘assessing risk.’

        We’re almost certain now that Yakupov is going to be an impact player. We know – KNOW – he can handle the speed, the rigor, and the physicality of the NHL game. We know that he is, at the very least, a productive 2nd line goal-scorer and since it is highly unlikely that he tops out in his 18 year old rookie year, we can probably say for certain that a career similar to… Kovalchuk… is not just very likely, but probably close to minimum expectations. He’ll probably be that good. He might be much, much better (Stamkos? Bure?)

        And while pro scouting at the top of the draft has gotten very, very, very good, until those newbies show something at the NHL level, the odds of them turning into significant disappointments like Barkers or Weisses, or modest successes like Hortons, EJs or Kessels.

        You don’t want to turn your solid bet for an elite goalscorer into something that still has a very good chance of becoming Bogosian (or, jeez, Filatov). Not to mention trading a year of development and prolonging the rebuild along those lines too.

  • Word to the Bird

    Pending how the 2013-14 draft is, why not yhe Oilers make a move up with Nashville or Carolina……by putting Hemsky or Gagner into the trade offer, with one of either Gernat, Marancin, or Musil….and next by year’s (2013-14) 1st rounder?

    The Oil then can hypothetically get Nichushkin at #4 or #5, then at #7 be smart to have Monahan or Lindholm….or then even one of Nurse, Zadorov or Pulock.

    There is absolutely no need to worry of next year’s pick with all these kids we have.

    The bottom six, two defenceman, one 1A type goalie, can easily be taken in UFA deals, offer sheets (maybe, pending using next year’s pick already), or traded for with other assets (MPS, Lander, Hartikainen, etc)

  • misfit

    I really don’t see what everyone else sees with this situation. Nothing has changed, IMO, and I’d still be shocked to see Nichushkin go earlier than #7, and I’d be equally shocked if we took him (assuming we still hold the pick when it comes around).

  • Citizen David

    I don’t think it changes much. If TB takes Nichushkin:
    1. Jones
    2. Mackinnon
    3. Nichushkin
    4. Drouin
    5. Barkov
    6. Monahan

    Unless Carolina takes a D man, in which case EDM’s rival, Calgary, gets an elite prospect in Barkov.

    This actually sucks for EDM if that happens

  • jonnyquixote

    Forget the russian this time.

    He is to slow and he hasnt played against NHL caliber competition,he scores most goals from in close on rushes with guys hanging off of him.This represents a major false positive assesment dynamic.

    He will get taken out of the play a lot in the NHL,he doesnt ever really lean into guys when he zones to the net,he sort of just gets in front of them like a small planet and takes away the real estate totally.In the NHL he will be challenged terribly,he will be brutalised unless he has some kind of mean streak.It doesnt look like he has much of a shot really,he just sort of shovels the pucks in from odd overextended angles like jagr,but he isnt a silky smooth skater like Jaromir is.

    Nooo we better pass on this cat,unless we can get him very cheap.There arent any secrets why the KHL let him go,in the NHL he needs to be a much better skater and they know it,in the KHL he is effective,they would rather keep him there and putting up points useing his size in a league where he can dominate,in the NHL he will need to develop a LOT to survive.In the KHL he is a walk-on.

    I guess as always it depends on his mindset and exactly what the russian mafia are holding over his head,is his sister being held captive or his brother workong in a salt mine somewhere in Siberia?Will his family be denied travel visas or the ability to join him wherever he goes?Is anyone in prison that can be used to control him?There must be something over the kids head by now.

    We need a faceoff man without any doubt,we need more than one player with this skill,so lets target one immediatly because this is one of the few pure skills that will get anyone an NHL job if they can master it,size DOESNT matter,speed DOESNT matter,toughness DOESNT matter,if you can win faceoffs in the NHL you are earning a fat and steady paycheque somewhwere,moreso than in any other league in the world.

    We need players with chips on their shoulders,ones who hate extra work and the embarrasment of being punished with extra work for losing games but will give you 100% every time they have to do it.This is one of the secret ingredients the Oilers have been looking for.Guys with a lot of pride who are humble and willing to learn but have a devils streak in them that needs to be focused and released during games sometimes.And did I say we need a face-off man?????

    • Throttlehead

      Take off the tinfoil hat with the Siberia/mafia talk.

      I seen this kid live in the subway series, he was EASILY the best player on the ice (him & Rielly), I have no idea where you are getting the “he is too slow” part.

      We should take Sean Monahan if he is available, but don’t knock this russian kid, he will be an excellent NHL player.