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:

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.

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:

  • RomZ

    This certainly changes the top 10 teams drafting strategy. I was a big fan of this kid before he announced his intentions of playing in the NHL. I was hoping he would fall to us at #7 but with this his value skyrockets having top 5 talent written all over him.

    Either way this helps the Oilers as other prospects may now fall to us at #7 or the trade value of our picks becomes more enticing to help address other holes in our roster.

  • striatic

    If you were a fan of Edmonton taking Nichushkin at #7 without the news, there was a good chance he would be available . Now unlikely.

    What I see is Barkov could move down not to #7 but possibly 5th or 6th

    • OilersBrass

      Barkov falling to seventh is a dream senario. Im not convinced there is any difference in talent from McKinnon, Drouin, or Barkov. The only way I’d see him drop would be a bad performance at the Combine or someone said he competes like Grigorenko. Neither would happen. I think the news just tells us we will get Monahan, Lindholm, or the Big N. Oilers pick at seven will get a ton of interest from other teams. If the Oilers aren’t convinced that Monahan or Lindholm are not much better then Horvat or Lazar and were willing to trade down I’d want to know what other asset they could get?

    • RomZ

      NO WAY………..Barkov drops to seven. He is still in the top four with VN probably going number 5.

      I would move heaven and earth to get VN as he looks like a Malkin type of player. I would settle for Barkov but we would need to be in the top five drafting order to get either one……….finally something to talk about.

    • RomZ

      Size is nice but I’m of the belief it comes down to the player himself. You can’t really instill a mean streak in someone who just doesn’t have it. I like Paajarvi and he’s a pretty big body, but watching him play you can see hes timid out there and doesn’t use his size to his advantage. Could you imagine if a brad marchand was the size of a Lucic? he would be a dominant, he plays hard everynight, if he had weight to throwaround nobody would mess with him.

      • jonnyquixote

        Almost never gonna happen, small players like Marchand are gritty the way they are because all their lives they’ve always had to fend off the that they’ve matured and added some beef it’s payback time..that and they’re just trying to survive in a big big league and the only way they can is to fight and scratch every bit of the way..over the years quick twitch muscle, short tempers’s kinda like that youngest brother who has three older, bigger, bullying day the youngest becomes the meanest, nastiest, of them all.

      • OilersBrass

        True, it does come down to the player himself. I’ve just noticed everyone here thinks if a player is 6 ft or 5′ 11″ (regardless of how aggressive they are), that they’re going to be useless.

        • RomZ

          Size certainly helps if you know how to use it. Ultimately I won’t write off a player just because they are not 6ft+ I tend to gauge a players value in terms of intangibles like leadership, compete level etc.

  • striatic

    This what changes, it helps if Edmonton wants Lindholm, if not Calgary still will take Monahan.


    Florida- MacKinnon

    TB- Drouin/Nichushkin

    Nash- Barkov/Drouin

    Carolina- Nichushkin/ Barkov

    Cal- Nichushkin/Monahan/ Lindholm

    EDM- Nichushkin/Monahan/ Lindholm

  • striatic

    Even if the Oilers don’t take him, the talent pool in the top 1 through 10 just increased, and a Lindholm or Monahan might fall down a spot as a result.

    Terrific news.

    Still, I think the most likely result though is being at 7, seeing Monahan go to Calgary anyway, then trading the pick to NYR or PHI so they can pick Nichushkin.

    Opens up the trade possibilities for 7OV considerably!

  • RomZ

    Would anyone give any legitimacy to the notion / rumour that Malkin might not be a Pen for too much longer? Just saying Nichushkin, Malkin, and Yak would simply be a powerhouse line of unstoppable Russian amazement. Oh, you shut down that line, send out the wonder kids.

    Now that is starting to sound like the dynasty we all know and love.

  • OilersBrass

    Let me be the fist to say…….draft Valarie should be the order of the year! Big, strong, left wing, and would give Yaks a partner for the long term.

    Trade what ever players necessary ( outside of the fab five ofcourse) to find a true second line centre with size and attitude.

    This is only a good thing if the Oilers Brass figure out a way to take advantage of what Nichuskin said.

    • OilersBrass

      I agree that if they took this kid, and could go out and find a big centre that played with some size and grit (not the easiest thing to come by), then instead of the stupid three scoring lines idea, we’d have a dominant top line, with a large balanced second line loaded with skill. Kind of like a 1A 1B type of lines.

      I think we have the prospects, or could make the trades to have a very decent, highly mobile third shut down line that can win important draws, kill penalties, and maybe even get in on the forecheck depending who’d on it. And then have enough spare parts to have a tough energy banging fourth line. This is the forward corps I envision for the Oilers. If we can add / upgrade our D even a bit, this would be a whole new team.

  • RomZ

    YES! This is great. THough I was kind of hoping the Oilers were going to take this kid after all the other teams let him fall to us, but now it looks like at least one of Lindholm or Monahan will be on the board. Not as high on Lindholm as he is a bit smaller than Monahan.

    Or, an even better scenario is if Calgary Jankowski’s their draft pick again, and takes “the player that will end up one day being the best out of the entire draft.” Then there will be some significant names on the board in case the Oilers want to trade their pick for a significant roster player.