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Valeri Nichushkin: The Key to the Dallas Stars' Revival

The Young Russian Who'll Get the Stars Back into the Playoffs

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Dallas Stars got the biggest steal of this year's NHL entry draft when they selected forward Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th overall pick. Nichushkin had enough talent to be selected within the first three picks of the draft, but his stock dropped due to skeptics who weren't sure if he'd commit to the NHL or stay in his homeland of Russia and play in the KHL.

By selecting Nichushkin, the Dallas Stars have all but guaranteed him a spot on the team's roster for the upcoming season. Nichushkin stated that he's leaving the KHL to play in the NHL and would not settle for an AHL contract.

At 6 feet 4 inches and weighing a little more than 200 pounds, Nichushkin has the build to be a power forward in the NHL. Plus, at the age of 18, he still has room to grow.

With a combination of speed, size and slick hands, Nichushkin plays a lot like the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin and the New York Rangers' Rick Nash. Nichushkin's best asset is his ability to drive to the net. He isn't afraid to create contact with an opposing team's defenders to get to the prime scoring place, the front of the net.

Recently acquired defenseman Sergei Gonchar will be a great mentor for Nichushkin. Gonchar is a fellow Russian who'll help the young player adjust to life in the United States and show him how to be successful on and off the ice. Evgeni Malkin credits much of his success in the NHL to the mentorship of Gonchar.

Nichushkin is a quick skater who needs linemates who can keep up with him. Recently acquired center Tyler Seguin would be a good fit, and Ray Whitney would add veteran leadership to an otherwise young line.

With the right guidance from head coach Lindy Ruff, Nichushkin has the opportunity to be one of the top rookies during the upcoming season. After a 20-30 goal season, Nichushkin will be in the running for the Calder Memorial Trophy along with forwards Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Anthony Vence covers the Dallas Stars as a Dallas/Fort Worth-based sports writer and photographer.

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