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01/14/2014

The hope for the Dallas Stars can't (legally) drink

DALLAS, Texas - If you are like the vast majority of people in the North Texas region, tri-state metropolitan area deal, you checked out on the Dallas Stars a looooong time ago. You will pay attention only again when they are good.

Until they are, commit the name "Valeri Nichushkin" to memory. It will make you sound smarterid when they return to relevance.

As good as forward Jamie Benn is - the fact that he was picked for Team Canada at his age (24) says a lot - the Star with the greater, long-term upside is the Russian who is but 18. He was picked to play for Team Russia in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia - home of the great kickbacks and bribes.

Valeri-Nichushkin-1Disregard the totally self-inflicted drama surrounding Nichushkin's selection on the team. The fact that there is a split on this decision between Team Russia's GM and its head coach is so typical of this organization; there is always some sorority drama around Team Russia.

New Stars' GM Jim Nill's decision to draft Nichushkin has all the makings of a classic Detroit Red Wings move - bring in the freakishly-talented Eastern Euro, and let him run. Moves, and players, like this are what made the Red Wings the NHL's model franchise for more than a decade. No one did Eastern Europe any better than the Red Wings, where Nill worked for approximately 98 years as an assistant to GM Ken Holland.

In 44 games as a rookie, Nichushkin has nine goals and 13 assists and is a plus-11. Remember - he is 18.

The risk in selecting Nichushkin is that sometimes "those darn Russian kids" are a bit of a headache, or unpredictable. They can be entitled, a hot dog, and nothing like the Western Canadians, which the NHL worships.

For instance, Ilya Kovalchuk. Total head case who retired in July to return to Russia.
Then there is Alex Ovechkin, who has embraced his role as one of the faces of the NHL.

Nichushkin is still years away from his prime, and there will the matter of a monster contract when he is eligible for the big money. 

Between Benn and Nichushkin, the Stars have a young 1-2 forward combination that should rival any in the NHL.

Now, about the Stars' defensemen ...

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tengel@star-telegram.com
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