The agent for Russian draft prospect Valeri Nichushkin said his client is serious about playing in North America, and NHL teams should not wonder about his commitment to the league.
"This is not a charade," Mark Gandler said. "This is serious business."
Gandler confirmed his client's two-year contract with Moscow Dynamo of Europe's Kontinental Hockey League has been terminated. But Gandler also said Dynamo allowed the move with the condition that if Nichushkin does not make an NHL roster next season he can be assigned back to Dynamo. The NHL team would have the ability to call the player back.
"They just want to make sure that if he doesn't make it in the NHL this year he comes back and plays for Dynamo," Gandler said. "If both sides agree to it, (the contract) will say something like, 'At any point during the 2013-14 season, if the player is not on an NHL roster, he, upon written notice, will be assigned to the team of his choice in Europe.' "
It is all of great interest to the Lightning, which has the No. 3 overall pick of the June 30 draft. With defenseman Seth Jones expected to be selected first by the Avalanche and center Nathan MacKinnon expected to go second to the Panthers, Tampa Bay, if it keeps the pick, likely will choose between Nichushkin, left wing Jonathan Drouin and center Aleksander Barkov.
Nichushkin, 18, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right wing with high-end skill will merit serious consideration. That Nichushkin is free of his KHL responsibility and that he is expected to train this summer in Pennsylvania, shows he is committed to playing in the NHL, Gandler said.
"I see him as a decent fit for any team," Gandler said by phone from the combine in Toronto. "It doesn't matter. We're not talking about breakfast. We're talking about dinner. He's going to fit no matter what because the team eventually is going to be built around him. He's that good."
Gandler said he expects Nichushkin, ranked by the International Scouting Service as the No. 4 overall prospect in the draft, to weigh in at about 210 pounds by the time training camps begin. Keep in mind, too, that at 18, Nichushkin still has time to grow.
"He's a weapon. At any point in the game he's a threat to score," Gandler said, and added, "And he's such a good passer. Whether he plays with (Steven) Stamkos or other players who are not shooters, he'll find them. He'll get everybody involved. But when you need a goal, he'll take care of it."