Chalk up another draft win for Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
Well, Red Wings fans knew Gustav Nyquist was going to be special when he led the team in goals last year despite playing in just 57 games. But after Nyquist’s miraculous overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the rest of the country is starting to see how special of a player Nyquist is.
With just more than a minute remaining in overtime, Nyquist circled the offensive zone three times while holding onto the puck for 28 seconds and scored the game-winning goal — and team-leading 15th goal — to give the Red Wings a crucial two points after losing six of their past seven games.
Here’s the video in case you missed it last night.
As FSD announcer Ken Daniels said during the broadcast, some players don’t even hold onto the puck for 20 seconds during the course of an entire game, but Nyquist was able to do it all in one chunk during overtime, while Clarke MacArthur and Jared Cowen hacked and whacked at him the entire way.
The Next Zetterberg
At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Nyquist isn’t the biggest guy on the ice, but he’s got such strong upper-body strength that he is able to shield the puck from defenders while he looks for an open teammate or an open space of ice.
It’s how Henrik Zetterberg has been successful throughout his career. Even at the age of 34, Zetterberg is able to keep defenders away from the puck as he battles in the corners. He’s so hard to push off the puck despite not being a giant like Zdeno Chara or even Eric Staal.
There’s no doubt Nyquist took notes watching Zetterberg in practice for the past two years and applied that to his own game. In fact, he told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan that was a goal he would expect Zetterberg to score.
“I’m not nearly as good as him at it but it’s something you see a lot of when you play with Hank and Pav (Datsyuk). They hold onto the puck so well, especially when it’s four-on-four you know it’s going to be a little bit more room out there, so the guys did a good job of creating some space for me. It’s nice to see it go in.”
Zetterberg told Khan to expect more of those plays from Nyquist in the future.
“That’s the kind of player he is. He’s real creative, strong on the puck. I think we got to see more of that coming in January.”
As Kukla’s Korner’s George Malik tweeted last night, he hopes the Nyquist goal is the moment where he and the other kids on the Red Wings start to use what they have learned from veterans like Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and apply them to game situations.
You hope that this is the moment where “learning by watching” and “learning by emulating” becomes “learning by doing” on a regular basis.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) December 28, 2014
Malik had no words for Nyquist’s goal, other than it’s one that will be remembered for years to come.
I don’t know what to say. That was a goal we’re going to remember ten years from now. — George Malik (@georgemalik) December 28, 2014
Nothing New for Nyquist
Despite the national attention this goal will get for the next couple of days, this is nothing new for Nyquist. He pulled off a similar goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
It didn’t involveholdingonto the puck for 28 seconds, but he was able to use his body to shield the puck from a Lightning defender and eventually beat Ben Bishop for one of the hardest-working goals you’ll ever see.
And Nyquist isn’t all about hard-nosed grittiness; he has a finesse game as well. Watch as he dangles through a Chicago Blackhawks defender and waits out Corey Crawford for a goal during the playoffs two seasons ago.
This production we are seeing from Nyquist is just the tip of the iceberg. At 25 years old, Nyquist hasn’t even hit the peak years of his career. The sky is the limit for the young Swede, and with Zetterberg and Datsyuk’s tutelage, we could be watching the next Red Wings captain in the making.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.