The Colorado Avalanche made one of the more curious offseason moves when they signed Valeri Nichushkin this past summer. The former Dallas Stars forward was available after a season so poor that Dallas bought him out of his contract. Nichushkin wasn’t expected to do much but has been a key part of the bottom-six due to numerous injuries. The 24-year-old has proven there is still value in his game.
Valeri Nichushkin Proving his Worth for Avalanche
Very few would have predicted how much Nichushkin would contribute to Colorado this season. Remember, he scored no goals and only 10 points in 57 games in 2018-19. This season has been much different for the former first-round pick who has scored six goals and 10 points in 28 games. He is playing almost 90 seconds more each game than he did last season. Colorado has needed Nichushkin with their flurry of injuries on offence but Nichushkin has awarded the coaching staff with his recent play.
One of Nichushkin’s most frequent linemates has been a fellow grinder, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. He has combined with the former Vegas Golden Knight to become one of the team’s strongest bottom-six duos. They have produced a Corsi For percentage of 54.43 and have been big stabilizing factors in the defensive zone. Don’t expect Nichushkin to remain this hot with a shooting percentage over 40 percent above what it was in Dallas but it is excellent to see him regain what made him so prized in the first place.
What to Expect Moving Forward
While Nichushkin probably won’t shoot 11.1 percent for the rest of the season, his points-per-game is in-line with his career average. His current pace would put him on target for 25 points. That is excellent for someone that was scratched several times in the early season. Nichushkin’s ability to score as a secondary option is a huge part of why Colorado currently leads the Western Conference.
Nichushkin has done enough to warrant a new contract after this season. He shouldn’t cost much more than his current $850,000 cap hit in free agency. It is far more likely Colorado trades several of their other pending free agents while keeping Nichushkin and promoting prospects for the 2020-21 season.