Here’s every NHL team’s player to watch break out this year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick /
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Dallas Stars: Valeri Nichushkin

So, that whole most-dominant-line-in-hockey thing did work out – for the Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Alexander Radulov line. For the rest of the team and its playoff chances, well, not so much. As a result, the Stars are starting the new season with a new coach and a whole new sense of urgency to be a dominant team.

So, with backs against the wall and needing to prove they have more than one line, they’ve turned forgiving. As in: Valeri Nichushkin is back! (Or maybe his return is due more to the fact that Ken Hitchcock is no longer coaching!) After being the Stars’ first-round choice, 10th overall, in 2013, and playing irregularly or hurt for three seasons, he bailed for the homeland. Since then, a couple of seasons in his native Russia (51 points in 86 games) have taught him a thing or two, and he’s going to get a chance to show exactly what by potentially lining up on the third trio with Blake Comeau and Jason Spezza, who have their own little motivations (Comeau was signed as a free agent over the summer; Spezza is entering a contract year).

Nichushkin has got the goods to be a pretty solid third-liner: he’s 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and a lefty playing alongside two righties. Meaning: he’s going to get the puck. Plus, he’s on a two-year deal (at $2.95 million per), so the Stars are going to get him some reps.