According to a report from The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro, former Dallas Stars 10th overall pick Valeri Nichushkin is expected to return to the NHL in 2018-19 following two seasons in the KHL with CSKA Moscow.
Nichushkin is still technically Stars property so he’ll either need to re-up with the team or he’ll need to have his negotiating rights traded to another team before returning to the NHL. No problem, according to Nichushkin’s agent Mark Gandler.
“Val very much wants to come back,” Nichushkin’s agent Mark Gandler told Shapiro. “Dallas wants him back and we are just very hopeful we’ll be able to take care of this very soon.”
Nichushkin reportedly never saw eye to eye with former Stars coach Lindy Ruff and with Ruff now out of the picture and new head coach Jim Montgomery behind the bench in Dallas, the door is open for the 23 year old Nichushkin to return to the Stars.
The 6’4”, 205 pound winger put up just 16 goals and 27 points in 50 games with CSKA Moscow in 2017-18 but was banned from participating with the Russian squad at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea due to a wide-spread doping scandal. Why Nichushkin was singled out by the International Olympic Committee, despite never testing positive for a banned substance, is anyone’s guess.
“How he got on that list? I have no idea. Nobody knows,” Gandler said. “It’s impossible to win because they have no accountability whatsoever. They say they want to say. They do what they want to do. Obviously, if they had something they would have said it. But they don’t… that’s why it’s useless to go after the International Olympic Committee even for an explanation. Because we know they had nothing. He never was tested positive for anything, ever, in his life. He knows it, we know it, but it’s useless to talk about it.”
In 166 games split over three seasons, Nichushkin managed 23 goals and 64 points with the Stars, with his best season being his 14 goal, 34 point rookie campaign in 2013-14. So, how will he fare in his NHL comeback?
“Actually his game has changed quite a bit, there is no question that he’s grown as a player,” Gandler said. “He is not the same guy who left Dallas. He’s an experienced guy who understands situational play, understands systems. (He) is not just a guy who takes the puck and goes with it. He is a playmaker, he makes plays at every square foot of the ice. You could see his experience shows. And I watched his game in the final, it was too bad he played with a bum shoulder for the last games. You can see he understands the game at a completely different level than he did when he was a kid in Dallas.”