Valeri Nichushkin is a 6'4" 195 pound Russian winger who just declared that he intends to play in the NHL next year. Prior to this point, I, and many other people, would have considered him out of the question as far as an option for Nashville because of his contract with the KHL. He has already talked to his team and they have allowed him to get out of his contract. He has great size, speed and hands and has a great shot and he uses that size to propel his offense. He has the edge on all of the top offensive players because of his physical play. He is a North-South player who loves to drive to the net much like Rick Nash or Evgeni Malki.
As far as weaknesses go, he doesn't have the vision of Barkov, he needs to improve on the back end, and he needs more consistency.
He could bring the ability to take over a play and put up the necessary points up on the board for Nashville. Nashville really hasn't had a player with the potential to do that since their Russian first rounder Alexander Radulov. Considering he is left handed, he would be great with Filip Forsberg who is a great sniper. Nichushkin's ability to weave in and out of players and attract players also allows Forsberg to have more room. The only downside for him fitting in Nashville is his defensive woes but those can always be fixed and it might just be a maturity thing. He has the skills to play in the NHL next year but it is just a question of whether or not he is mature enough to do so. He spent last year playing in the KHL so that might help him with the jump to the NHL considering that is the best league other than the NHL itself.
Now to the draft. Valeri Nichushkin has the potential to go as high as 2nd but will definitely not drop out of the top five. These are the possibilities on how the draft will go and my reasons for each team picking the player they picked.
Colorado- Seth Jones
I can't see Colorado not picking Seth Jones because of their need on defense.
Florida- Nathan Mackinnon, Valeri Nichushkin or Jonathan Drouin
Florida will be looking for a player to pair up with Huberdeau who, although he is listed as a center, might be better suited as a winger just as much as a center. From what I have read about him, he is a lot like Drouin so Mackinnon might be the best pick. Drouin might be too much like Huberdeau to pick but he might have too much talent to pass up on. Nichushkin brings both size and speed to Florida and he would be great with Huberdeau, who is rather skinny at this point in time.
Tampa- Nathan Mackinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Valeri Nichushkin, or Aleksander Barkov
Mackinnon would make a great future one-two offensive punch for Tampa and that would be why they would probably pick him. Barkov would bring defensive ability to the Bolts and they really need that considering they scored so much but had little to show for it. They might have trouble picking Barkov with all of the offensive talent ahead of him but he is still a possibility. Nichushkin would bring the same thing he does to all other teams but Tampa might have trouble picking him or Drouin because of their trouble defensively; that could be overlooked, however, because they need to replace St. Louis.
Nashville- Jonathan Drouin, Valeri Nichushkin, or Aleskander Barkov
Nichushkin stating he would play in the NHL next year now allows Nashville to have more say in what kind of player they get. Drouin and Nichushkin both bring much needed scoring ability while Drouin might have more potential and Nichushkin brings more size. Nashville lacks a center who can put the puck in the back of the net but Forsberg and Wilson both could play center with a little more maturity. Barkov, however, would provide a pure center for Nashville.
Carolina- Aleksander Barkov or Valeri Nichushkin
Carolina would like a defensively gifted center more than anything but they will take whoever they get. They are now in the position the Predators were in earlier as the team who gets the scraps. While an offensive player would be great for them, I think they now might be more inclined to trading that pick to Buffalo, who really wants a player who can lead their team in one way or another and they won't get that player if they pick eight. Also, Carolina really wants a defenseman, or two, so they might see fit to trade back to eight and pick up Nurse or Ristolainen and try to pry away maybe Jake McCabe, Mark Pysyk, or Chad Ruhwedel (Buffalo's prospect defenseman.)