MOSCOW, May 22 (R-Sport) – Less than three weeks after insisting he would play in Russia for another two years, NHL draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin told R-Sport Wednesday he will move to North America if he is drafted this June.
Nichushkin, 18, is the second-best European skater in the draft, according to NHL Central Scouting, and is widely expected to go in the first five picks.
“I’ve already decided to leave for the NHL,” the 6’3”, 201-pound wing said. “I was told I could leave if I want.”
He told reporters at the under-18 world championship in Sochi he intended to honor the final two years of his KHL contract, saying he wanted to avoid playing in the North American junior leagues before reaching the NHL.
Nichushkin now claims his contract with Dynamo Moscow, who reportedly paid Traktor Chelyabinsk $10 million for the prospect earlier this month, has been terminated.
Details of Nichushkin’s contract situation were not immediately known. With no transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL, players are required to negotiate buyouts with their Russian club in order to leave.
Nichushkin said both sides agreed he could give it a shot in North America.
“We agreed that they would let me go, but if something across the ocean goes wrong I will immediately go back to them,” he said.
Dynamo could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nichushkin’s announcement comes days before he is expected to appear at the NHL scouting combine in Toronto and, for the time being, puts an end to concern in league circles the Russian would be a risky pick.
The Chelyabinsk native, who tallied six points in 18 games for Traktor this season, told R-Sport the Tampa Bay Lightning, who has the third pick in the draft, and the Nashville Predators, who own the fourth pick, have expressed interest.