NHL or bust for Nichushkin

Aaron Vickers2013 Draft Center, Features

When Valeri Nichushkin comes to play hockey in North America, there’s only one league he’s got his mind set on – the National Hockey League.

The 6-foot-4, 196-pound forward has little desire to play in the American Hockey League and even less to skate in Canada’s junior ranks, he told Future Considerations’ Roman Soloviev.

“If I go to North America, I’ll go only to NHL,” Nichushkin said earlier this week at the World Under-18 Championship. “I played in KHL, why [do] I need to go to CHL or AHL?”

The query is a valid one from Nichushkin, who could be better served developing in the KHL and would earn more money staying at home than either the Canadian junior ranks or in the American Hockey League.

But the question surrounding one of the most talented Europeans in the draft is not if, but when he will come to North America to play.

In a similar fashion to that of fellow Russian and St. Louis Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, Nichushkin indicated he had no plans to come to North America until his KHL obligations are met.

“Yes, for sure,” Nichushkin said.

Tarasenko joined the Blues after his contract came to an end after the 2011-12 season in which he played with Sibir Novosibirsk and SKA St. Petersburg. He played another half season with St. Petersburg during the lockout before joining the Blues in January.

After signing a three-year deal this summer, Nichushkin is under contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk until April 30, 2015. The length remains an indication of his commitment to both his team in league. However, Nichushkin’s line of thinking came before news leaked of a possible trade from Traktor to Dynamo, a deal expected to be announced April 30th.

If and how that potentially alters his plans remains to be seen.

In fact, outside from a trip to the 2013 NHL Draft Combine and some additional workouts this summer, Nichushkin said he had little interest in coming across the pond unless it was to play full-time in the NHL.

“After [the Under-18’s], I would go take some rest, than to U.S. for NHL Combine, the whole summer I would be training there.”

But when he is ready to come across the Atlantic to commence his pro career in North America, Nichushkin admitted he does have a couple destinations in mind he hopes he ends up.

“Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers, they are good teams, aren’t it?”

He’ll have to wait until June 30th in New Jersey to find out if either potential destinations become reality for Nichushkin.

With files from Roman Solovyev