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With top-six role, it’s time for Valeri Nichushkin to prove himself



Valeri Nichushkin
Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

Judging by his comments today, Jared Bednar seems to be leaning toward putting Valeri Nichushkin at left wing on the second line, with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. On paper, it seems like probably the most logical move, given the current state of the roster.

But make no mistake, the pressure is on Nichushkin, to validate Bednar’s move and also to get his career to the next level. It’s time for the big Russian to show he can be more than just a 21-27-point guy in this league.

Now look, I know that 21 and 27 points isn’t too bad for a guy who has mostly played on the third line the past two years. Nichushkin has gotten his NHL career back on track for sure, after two years in the KHL and one 57-game season with Dallas in which he scored all of zero goals.

But he’s also gotten some top-six action too. He’s had mixed results when given a top-six role, sometimes going too long between goals. Yet, he’s been very good defensively and is strong on the puck, and he goes hard to the net. He needs to just plant himself in front of that net better, instead of the move drive-by style he has instead. He’s got the size to stand his ground, at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. People have told me that Nichushkin scores at or near the top of most Avalanche strength fitness tests.

He’s got to get into the 30-40 point club this season, at least. With the losses of Brandon Saad and Joonas Donskoi, the Avs need more production from the guys still around and Nichushkin is one of them (so, too, are some guys like Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher).

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He’s definitely got the talent to do it. He’s a good hockey player. He really needs to get it in his head, though, that this could be one of the last chances he gets to be a real top-six forward again, as he was much of his first two seasons with Dallas. Does he want it bad enough? Or, is being a pretty good third-liner good enough for him? Hey, some guys know they’re only as good as the third line, and that’s OK, provided they do the job.

Nichushkin should want more than that. He should take the renewed confidence of the last two years, after it looked like his NHL career return might be a short one, and push himself harder to get to that next level as a player.

Bednar seems to think he can do it. Nichushkin, though, can’t take too long to get going because there could be a push for that 2LW job by someone like a Jost or an Alex Newhook.

The opportunity for Valeri Nichushkin is here. Is he ready for it?

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

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Jared Moss

To me it has to be big Val… why cause he’s BIG. Gotta fight in corners and in front the net and he’s had some succes just has to keep going now that he has the opportunity. Newhook and jost are to small for top six to me but they can prove me wrong all day long I hope so! Go avs!

Yan Girard

I disagree with Newhook and Jost are to small for top six. Many of the best center in NHL present a height 5.10 to 6.0. For example, Brayden Point (5.10), Crosby (5.11), Mackinnon (6.0), Joe Sakic (5.11), Peter Forsberg (6.0), Steve Yzerman (5.11), Wayne Gretzky (6.0). In more, the best line of Tampa Bay in final Stanley Cup was the Gourde line. Gourde plays at center and is 5.09. Nick Suzuki the best forward of Montreal that plays at center is 5.11. Newhook is 5.10 and Jost is 5.11. I don’t see no problem. You add players bigger with Newhook… Read more »

Jordan R Leonard

You also need to mention that last year, the few games where Newhook centered Kadri and Bura were more effective the Newhook at winger on any other line he played, and also arguably better than any other point where Kadri was centering that line. But Nuke is definitely the one who has most earned that spot


I can see a fair amount of rotation between Val, Jost and Newhook especially in the early part of the season and if things aren’t going well. This will probably give us someting to talk about for a while.

Yan Girard

I would like Jost at the position of center. He is very effective at this position. He must only produce more. Does Newhook can surprise and take the position of center on a line? I don’t know. Kadri had a ordinary season the last year. It was more difficult for him. In an ideal world, set Kadri on the third line and set Jost on the second line. Jost must step up his game level. He is young and will start the 5th season in NHL. He has a good potential and must grab his chance. His game has improved… Read more »

Matt Briggle

The middle 6 is going to be a source of drama all season it looks like. Think you can set and forget Naz and Burakovsky in their roles (other than the times they flip Burky and Landy to spice things up), but after that I think they have 7-8 guys who might be cycling through the 2nd and 3rd lines. I do have a general league question for you AD. I’ve seen it mentioned a few times in other places that they are considering a “goalie taxi squad” essentially letting teams carry a third goalie without him counting against the… Read more »

[…] Valeri Nichushkin, wherever he has played, has always been a power forward, using his physicality to set the tone. Now, as he gets set to play second line minutes with Colorado, it is time for him to show that he can produce offensively and validate the decision by head coach Jared Bednar. (Colorado Hockey Now) […]


Hope Val can stay there, cause the college line of newhook, josty and compher looks like it could be a very interesting line

[…] memories. I still vividly remember the first Avs game of any kind, against Montreal in 1995 in Cornwall, Ontario. Canadiens won 6-3, with Richard […]

Jordan R Leonard

About time, this is a move that should have happened right around the start of March. He also should have been given time on the top line instead of Bura in round 2, as he was one of our only guys who was actually getting penetrarion and he has the speed to play well with any combo of Mack, Landy and Mikko. (We even saw he and MacKinnon work pretty well together, when Mack came back from concussion and pulled double shifts he played with Nuke, I don’t think they scored, can’t remember, but do remember they looked good on… Read more »

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