The Detroit Red Wings organization is one known for drafting excellence. The late round gems the franchise has managed to secure are countless. Pavel Datsyuk (171st overall, 1998), Henrik Zetterberg (210th overall, 1999), Jonathan Ericsson (291st overall, 2002), Johan Franzen (97th overall, 2004), and Darren Helm (132nd overall, 2005) are the names of just a few . It should then come as no surprise that Gustav Nyquist, a 121st overall selection, is continuing that trend.
After being drafted by the Red Wings in 2008, Nyquist attended the University of Maine (with whom fellow ‘Wing Jimmy Howard holds SO, GAA, and SV% records) for 3 seasons. While there, Nyquist accumulated several honors, including being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2009, and most recently being a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (college hockey’s equivalent of the Heisman) in 2010-2011.
Following his junior year with the Black Bears, Gustav signed a 2 year entry-level contract with the Red Wings and was assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins for the remainder of their season. In the 8 games Nyquist played with the Griffins in 2011 he scored once and added 3 assists on his way to a +1 rating.
Fast forward a few months to the NHL preseason, and Nyquist found himself turning heads around the league. Frequently playing alongside Johan Franzen, Nyquist managed 3 goals and 2 assists in his short 5 game preseason stint before being reassigned to the Griffins for the 2011-2012 season. His performance garnered him rave reviews from analysts and made him a hot topic in Detroit.
The impressive qualities of Nyquist’s game don’t stop at point production. At just 22 years of age he’s spent no time in the NHL, but you wouldn’t know it from his game. Nyquist exhibited the patience and decision-making skills of a much more experienced player nearly every time he touched the puck. Whether passing, shooting, or playing without the puck, you could rarely find #14 out of position or making mistakes. However, the offensive qualities he possesses (quick release, accurate shot, quick skating) were certainly the most notable, and largely what has drawn him into the spotlight.
While Nyquist didn’t make the team this year, don’t write off seeing him in the red & white this season. If last season is any indication of how this one will go (and hopefully it isn’t) the Red Wings will need their fair share of players to fill in for the injured. You can bet Gustav will be near the top of the list of replacements after showing the management, coaching staff, and fans alike what he’s capable of.
Nyquist possesses the potential to become the next surprise star in the NHL, and spending a season playing professional hockey in the AHL will only make him that much better. Whether or not he gets the opportunity (at someone else’s misfortune) to join the ‘Wings this season, don’t be surprised if he not only makes the team in 2012-2013, but performs exceptionally well. While the prediction may be a bit early and ill-advised, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nyquist as a Calder finalist in the coming years, or as a 30+ goal scorer on the regular. He’s that good.