MOSCOW, January 8 (R-Sport) - It is another month before the Olympic hockey tournament begins, but a split has already developed among Russia’s staff over how much 18-year-old Dallas Stars wing Valeri Nichushkin deserves his place.
When Nichushkin was selected as the youngest player on the Russian roster Tuesday, coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said it was “an advance payment” that the player “must justify,” but general manager Alexei Yashin dismissed that idea in comments to R-Sport on Wednesday.
“It’s hard to talk about an advance payment. It’s the wrong word,” said Yashin, who played 850 career NHL games. “Nichushkin has earned the call to the Olympics with his game.”
According to Yashin, Nichushkin is “a very good player and an emerging star of the NHL” and his rookie season is reminiscent of Canadian stars Sidney Crosby and John Tavares.
So far this season, Nichushkin has scored nine goals and 13 assists in 41 games for Dallas, currently fifth of seven teams in the NHL’s Central Division. He was drafted 10th overall by Dallas last year after helping Russian team Traktor Chelyabinsk to reach the KHL’s Gagarin Cup Finals.