The Colorado Avalanche are up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final over the Tampa Bay Lightning thanks in large part to the play of Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin is the perfect example of why you need to be patient with a player. His career season has carried into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as he continues to find new ways to raise his level of play. General manager Joe Sakic took a gamble on Nichushkin. The risk is paying off. With Nichushkin set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, his play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will give him a significant pay raise in his next contract.
Valeri Nichushkin Has Become More Than Just A Role Player
The 10th overall pick from the 2013 NHL Draft had some struggles early on in his career with the Dallas Stars. After having a solid rookie campaign where he recorded 34 points (14 goals and 20 assists), Nichushkin struggled as his time in Dallas came to an end. Hip surgery that he has finally recovered from. A goalless streak that topped two years. Never finding a role in the lineup. There were high expectations he never lived up to.
Enter Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche. After having his contract bought, Nichushkin signed a one-year deal with Colorado. His performance gave the Avalanche confidence in his ability, that is why they signed him to a two-year deal ahead of the 2020-21 NHL Season. Every season Nichushkin is getting better in Jared Bednar’s system.
This season Nichushkin has taken his game even higher. In 62 regular-season games, he finished with 52 points including recording his first 25-goal season. Nichushkin was just six points shy of his total 58 points combined over the last three seasons. He has come a long way since he recorded zero goals and zero penalty minutes in 57 games with the Stars.
Around Full Press Hockey
And in the playoffs, Nichushkin has taken his game to even new heights. In 16 games in the playoffs, Nichushkin has recorded 13 points (eight goals and five assists). Including recording several big goals for the Avalanche during this current run.
After recording a goal and an assist on the Andre Burakovsky OT winner in Game 1, Nichushkin opened the scoring of Game 2 on the power play. This goal would eventually count as the game-winner thanks to Darcy Kuemper‘s 7-0 shutout of the Lightning. Later in the game, Nichushkin recorded his second goal of the night. He almost recorded the first hat trick in Stanley Cup Final since 1996, but Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy make an unbelievable stop in the second period.
Nichushkin has transformed himself from a role player to the player everyone expected he would be when he was drafted 10th overall back in 2013. Hence why his value is so high and the Avalanche have made him a priority this offseason.
Avalanche Making Nichushkin A Priority
In speaking on Hockey Night in Canada’s 32 Thoughts segment, Elliotte Friedman said, “The word here is Colorado has made him a priority. He’s pricing himself even higher, but the word is they’ve indicated to him they would like to keep him and he’s a priority to keep.”
Currently, Nichushkin has a salary cap hit of $2.5 million a season after originally signing with the Avalanche for $850,000. And there is a reason why the Avalanche are making him a priority. Not only is he a depth player but has shown the ability to play in the top six for the Avalanche.
As we here at Full Press Hockey have highlighted throughout the Avalanche run to the Stanley Cup Final. Nichushkin originally started out on the second line with Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri. But his versatility has allowed Bednar to move him up to the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Especially with the injury to Kadri.
“He’s a huge X factor,” Bednar said of Nichushkin’s play after Game 1. “Val had an incredible season so far. He’s been a difference-maker almost every night for us. His ability to check, and check pucks back to keep us playing offense, you saw it on display (in Game 1).”
It also helps that Nichushkin likes playing in Colorado. His time as we have documented was not a memorable one. He has really fit into a system as the Avalanche looking to cement their legacy. All signs point to the sides working something out.
Players Like Valeri Nichsuhkin Are Hard To Find
Joe Sakic took a risk signing Valeri Nichushkin. Nobody knew what to expect. Nichushkin was given a second opportunity and is playing like it. He is grinding and working hard for every puck. Though it is not on the same level as Nichushkin plays hockey as Rafael Nadal plays tennis. Both play every shift or point like it is their last. Given where Nichushkin came from, he has used it as motivation to make the most of his second chance in the NHL.
“He’s such a good all-around player, with or without the puck, that it’s hard to describe what he brings,” Bednar said after Game 2. “It’s hard to play against when you’re committed the way Val is.”
Give credit to Bednar for putting him in situations to succeed. A player like Nichushkin needed confidence. Playing on the bottom six in Dallas did not do that. Playing in a system like the one in Colorado has helped Nichushkin in so many ways. Nichushkin could have more points, but it was not in the cards. Colorado demolished their opponents in the first three rounds.
Having players that fight for every puck, makes a team like Colorado so dangerous. One thing is for sure Valeri Nichushkin has turned into a true playoff performer for Colorado.
Ep 32: Bruins Fire Bruce Cassidy; Avalanche To Stanley Cup; Bolts/Rangersby Full Press Coverage on June 8, 2022 at 4:09 pm
Mike, Jim, and Chris react to the Bruins firing of Bruce Cassidy, the […]
Ep 73: Bruins Face Elimination; Bruce Cassidy On Hot Seat; Patrice Bergeron Final Standby Full Press Coverage on May 12, 2022 at 4:00 pm
Ian and Chris discuss game six between the Bruins and Hurricanes and the […]
Ep 72: Bruins Acquire Hampus Lindholm; More Moves To Come?by Full Press Coverage on March 20, 2022 at 3:34 pm
Ian and Chris discuss the trade of Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins and what […]
S3E33 - Stanley Cup Final - Avalanche vs Lightningby Jim Biringer on June 19, 2022 at 12:00 pm
Jim is joined by Marc Weiss and Coach Jay as they discuss the Stanley Cup […]
S3Ep32 - Eastern Conference Final and Colorado Avalanche Advanceby Jim Biringer on June 11, 2022 at 9:37 pm
Jim is joined by Coach Jay and Marc Weiss to discuss the Eastern […]
6/24 - WSOP; NBA Finals Talk; Stanley Cup Coming To An End; NBA Draftby Full Press Coverage on June 24, 2022 at 2:15 pm
Ian and John are back to discuss the World Series of Poker, the NBA Finals […]
6/15 - Celtics Falter In San Fran, Can They Force A Game 7?by Full Press Coverage on June 15, 2022 at 4:23 pm
Ian and John discuss the Celtics loss in Game 5 and what they have to do […]
6/13 - Goodfellas; Celtics/Warriors, Stanley Cup Finalby Full Press Coverage on June 13, 2022 at 4:46 pm
Ian and John discuss the Celtics loss in Game 4 and look ahead to Game 5 […]