World Juniors Player Spotlight: Nikita Gusev – The Undrafted Artist

Nikita Gusev

Date of birth: July 08, 1992
Place of birth: Moscow, Russia
Ht: 5-9 Wt: 163
Shoots: R

Position: Forward (LW)

NHL Status: Undrafted – 2012 Entry Draft eligible  (passed over in 2 NHL drafts)




Hockey Artist

If, as I previously claimed, Kuznetsov is a hockey surgeon, then hidden gem forward Nikita Gusev is a hockey artist. 

If Gusev were a painter then the Saddledome was his masterpiece completed on December 29th, 2011.

Lost in the shadow of line-mate Evgeny Kuznetsov’s near record-breaking 9 point performance, was Gusev’s equally impressive 7 point (2G, 5A) outburst. He sits tied atop the WJHC scoring leaderboard along with Kuznetsov with 9 points apiece.

Gusev is an absolute artist with the puck, making those around him all the better. Kuznetsov is more of an individual dynamo, although the 6 assists in that same game may be grounds for debate.

I’ve coined Gusev “Picasso“. I know choosing a Russian painter for his nickname seems more appropriate, but Valentin Serov (who was considered to be the greatest portraitist of his time) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Team Russia’s #8 is an extremely crafty and savvy forward who is equally adept at scoring or playmaking. He is very elusive and exhibits laser-like precision shooting and passing.

Why does he remind me of a painter? The aforementioned traits are not all that unusual when describing a high end Russian hockey player. However, the way in which Gusev manuevers and positions himself on the ice is reminiscent of a painter’s brush strokes. He also seems to envision the way a play is unfolding like a painter envisions the finished painting he is in the process of completing.

Size is an issue but some say he is now closer to 5’11” then the often reported 5’9″.

He reminds me of Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux in a lot of ways, with a twist of Martin St. Louis thrown in. Of course, he has a long way to go before recognizing this potential. This is simply a NHL player comparison and not a proclamation.

Alessandro Seren Rosso of Hockeys Future had suggested before the tournament that Gusev’s line would be tough to handle. Kuznetsov has since replaced the injured Grigorenko.

The team’s second line is on paper the most dangerous of the squad due to chemistry. The unit will feature Nikita Gusev, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Kucherov (TBL). This line developed an excellent chemistry and being formed by three potential stars might reserve some serious treats to the opposition. Grigorenko and Kucherov already showed what they are capable of, while Gusev is probably Russia’s best hidden secret now, and after an excellent showcase at the Subway Super Series it was clear that he won’t be a liability to this line in spite of his shorter CV. If things will go well for Russia, people can expect these three players to be on the first positions of the scoring race.

Whether or not Gusev has a desire to come to North America to pursue NHL dreams is not yet known.  It is unlikely he gets passed over in the NHL draft for a third time, however. Not unlike Canada’s late blooming forward Tanner Pearson, Gusev may contend for a top 30 selection come June.

Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus thinks this is definitely a distinct possibility:

I’ve seen quite a bit of forward Nikita Gusev this year who has gone undrafted twice and plays in Russia’s Junior league the MHL and I have no problems proclaiming him a first round talent in 2012—transfer issues notwithstanding. He’s very, very talented and can make plays that most of this year’s first round class would never attempt. He’s small and an average skater, but that doesn’t deter much from his impressive upside.

The Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals may be three such teams seeking to draft the Russian hockey artist in June of 2012. The Red Wings – for obvious reason. The Capitals – the Russian and Kuznetsov connection is quite evident. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Steve Yzerman have to have taken note of Gusev’s chemistry with their highly skilled 2011 selection, Nikita Kucherov.


Stat Blast:

Gusev is averaging an astonishing 2.36 PPG in the MHL (Russian Junior League) this season. The next closest player with at least 20 games played averages 1.52 PPG, a 0.84 PPG difference.