Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why Gustav Nyquist could be the Detroit Red Wings next big star

There is much angst about the Red Wings, as if they have been a disappointment this season. Actually, I feel the opposite, at least to this point, even if they remain on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and their spot in the postseason for a 23rd straight year is precarious.
Both Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg are out. Zetterberg has missed 23 games and will not play the rest of the season. He has played just 45 games, and remains, by far, the Red Wings' leading scorer in regard to points. Datsyuk doesn't appear close to returning. He has played just 39 games. Goalie Jimmy Howard hasn't been himself until recently because of injuries.
Yet, the Red Wings are just a point from the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Gustav Nyquist has been a huge factor as to why. He has 19 goals in 43 games, and scored twice as the Red Wings got an impressive victory over Toronto Tuesday.
Gustav Nyquist: 19 goals in 43 games impressive
Zetterberg and Datsyuk are on the other side of 30. Whether the Red Wings reach the playoffs or not this season, where does the future lie? They need top-end players. Zetterberg was the captain of Sweden's Olympic team and Datsyuk Russia's Olympic team. Both probably rank among the Top 25 players in the world when healthy. An argument can be made Datsyuk has spent much of the last five years in the Top 10.
That type of talent doesn't grow on trees. It's amazing the Red Wings found those two players with the 171st and 210th picks in the NHL Draft. Nyquist might be next. He is 24. He was a fourth-round draft pick (121st overall).
Datsyuk and Zetterberg both took similar paths. They showed surprising signs of effectiveness as late-round draft picks their first two seasons with the Red Wings, and then had big breakouts in Year 3. Will it happen similarly with Nyquist. He could be more than just a nice piece. He could be a star.
There are signs the "next ones" are on the way. Tomas Tatar has been impressive. Anthony Mantha, a 6-4, nearly 200-pound and growing forward, is looking like the steal of last year's draft at No.20 overall the way he is dominating junior hockey with his rare combination of size and skill.
But it could begin with Nyquist and what he is doing late this season (he has 14 goals in the last 20 games).
And it does make you wonder where he was earlier this season. He had 21 points in 14 games with Grand Rapids at the start of this season after standing out in the playoffs for Detroit last season. He should have been in Detroit. If the Red Wings left a couple points on the table because they didn't have Nyquist early in the season and barely miss the playoffs because of it, it will go down as a blunder for general manager Ken Holland in what has mostly otherwise been an excellent career.

My column: Facts don't match the myth of Ndamukong Suh's reputation as a greatly impactful player:


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