Detroit Red Wings: Praying to the Church of Nyquist

It is a line that has been trotted out many times over the past ten years. “The Red Wings have no future”. They are getting older and older, but who do they have to replace Lidstrom? (well no one yet, but he is irreplaceable). Who replaces Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, etc. Well, the kids who have been forced into the lineup over the course of the season have given a glimpse of what is to come.

However, there has been no brighter shining light than that of Gustav Nyquist.

It could be argued that he should have been a mainstay on the roster going back to last season at least. However, that wasn’t the case and may not have been the case this season if it wasn’t for injuries. So every cloud has a silver lining and all that. With the amount of injuries Detroit have faced, it was expected the likes of Franzen, Alfredsson, maybe Kronwall, would be carrying the team on their backs.

Yet it is a young Swede who has done that.

Something About Gustav

Image courtesy of Zimbio.com.

Look at his numbers. 21 Goals, 17 assists in 45 games. Whilst not Crosby-type levels, it is all the more impressive when you consider he is the league’s top scorer since the Olympic break. He has a Game Winning Goal in 10% of his games played. This is a player that has yet to play on a settled line, yet continues to find chemistry with what ever linemates he has.

Whether that be Zetterberg, Franzen, Alfredsson or even his mates from Grand Rapids, Tatar and Sheahan. That shows one thing…He is a bonafide star who deserves to be in the NHL. It isn’t just his numbers or his chemistry that tell the real story though. He has a work-ethic that top players need and an unbelievable intelligence with the puck. He knows when to move it quickly, he knows when to slow things down. His reading of the game is outstanding and a true pleasure to watch.

Yet there is something else about Nyquist. He isn’t another Datsyuk, nor another Zetterberg, he is something else; he is Gustav Nyquist.

Carving His Own Path

Image courtesy of winnipegfreepress.com.

He is going to offer something else to this team, rather than simply being an alternative to the players Detroit already have.

Datsyuk is Datsyuk and does what Datsyuk does, better than anyone else in the league. Zetterberg is a full blown leader, body on the line, shooting machine. Franzen is a player who will win games in bursts. Helm is a coaches dream (when fit), as he grinds so well and is a penalty killing machine.

Nyquist is a player you want to get the puck to, when you want something to happen, when you want to get the fore-check going, put pressure on the opposition when needed.

Nyquist is also clutch, if it is a tie-game, or you are one or two behind, he is a player that will grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make something happen, change the momentum. You see opposition players on the ice react in a similar way to Nyquist as they would a Datsyuk, Stamkos, Ovechkin, Crosby and the likes. They realise they need to put in a shift, they know they will be worked hard for that 1-2 minutes.

Yeah, yeah, he isn’t at the level of those players yet, he isn’t as good as them…Yet! But they are players that opposition coaches and players know will make something happen when they are on the ice, one mistake and they will punish you. Nyquist is becoming one of those types of players. Take your eye off him for a second and he will find some room, he will produce something. He has that something special about him and ‘can’ go on to the next level, along with those mentioned.

Versatility

Image courtesy of Zimbio.com.

Nyquist is already in my opinion, a top six forward, but a top six forward you’d happily have all over the ice. If you need someone to get a goal, you send him out, if you need someone to grind it out, you can send him out. Need someone to solidify your D? Nyquist can do that too. I am telling you now, he is a potential future captain if things carry on the way they are.

Consider this too. This isn’t even really his first full season. It’s true he can no longer be sent back down to the AHL, but that maybe isn’t through choice; the stars have aligned for him and he is here to stay. And thank God for that, he will score all types of goals, get assists from nothing and has some amazing hands. He is the full package.

Yet to some he is still an unknown, which makes little sense at this stage of the season. There was a story run on the internet earlier in the week (March 2014), calling out ten stars flying under the radar. But how can a player who leads the NHL in scoring after the Olympic break be flying under the radar? How can a player who is one of the main reasons Detroit still have a shot at the post season be a surprise?

Shouldering The Load

At the time of writing he has yet another GWG, scoring Detroit’s all important 3rd goal against the Minnesota Wild. Detroit went into the third period 2-1 up, but a penalty-shot after just 16 seconds looked like it may lend itself to yet another third period collapse. Then out of nowhere, a Smith pass to Sheahan, who gave it to Nyquist to put it over the shoulder of Kuemper. This was at a time when Minnesota looked like they were about to run Detroit out of the arena, all the momentum was with them. Yet Nyquist took a chance that halted the Wild and completely stopped them in their tracks.

Now, not to take away from the part played by Smith and Sheahan, but it was originally a play that was looking like just clearing the zone and trying to take some pressure away from the D. Yet a real positive move from Nyquist opened up a rush and all of a sudden it was a play that led to a goal scoring opportunity. It was a move that showed just how much Nyquist understands the game, that he can always look one step ahead.

The Future

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Datsyuk does call it a day at the end of 2016-17, his daughter is growing up and he spends a lot of time away from her, so a return to Russia when his contract expires would seem likely. Two years ago you wondered how on earth the Wings could transition into a team without the magic man. But with the likes of Tatar, Jurco, Sheahan (plus a few more still to come up), led by the lord and savior that is Gustav Nyquist, the future is very bright.

Follow Brad on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk!

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