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Can We Stop With The Maybe’s On Nikita Gusev?

Nikita Gusev has never played a game in the NHL. There’s no getting around that. But Nikita Gusev was not dropped onto the Golden Knights from some other unknown planet.

Gusev won the MVP award in the KHL, the world’s second-best league, each of the past two years. He led the league in points in 2018-19 by 13. He broke the record for assists in a season with 64. He’s been more than a point per game player for four years running. He’s won a Gagarin Cup and he’s scored 68 points in 66 playoff games. He even shredded as a kid, scoring 192 points in 120 games in the Russian Junior league, the MHL.

And these are just his Russian accomplishments.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Gusev helped Russia win the gold medal in the Olympics a year ago, scoring the game-tying goal (and the one before it) in the gold medal game and assisting on the game-winner and led the tournament in points.

He scored 16 points in the IIHF World Championships this summer, second only to William Nylander, matching Nikita Kucherov and Jakob Voracek, and outdoing Mark Stone and he’s put up 1.11 points per game in all international competition.

In 2011 at the World Junior Championships, Gusev scored nine points in seven games, which was outdone by only five players (two of which are Mark Stone and Evgeny Kuznetsov).

Literally, every place this guy has played hockey, he’s scored. And he’s done it alongside or against hundreds of players that have played in the NHL, and have had massive success.

In World Juniors his numbers matched Clayton Keller (2016), Auston Matthews (2015), Matthew Tkachuk (2015), William Nylander (2014), Filip Fosberg (2013), Anthony Mantha (2013), Nikita Kucherov (2012), Mark Scheifele (2012), Johnny Gaudreau (2012), Mark Stone (2011), and Jason Zucker (2011).

All of those guys are either bonafide NHL stars or on their way to becoming one.

In international play, his numbers compare to Alexander Radulov, Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin, Leon Draisaitl, Anze Kopitar, Mats Zuccarello, and William Nylander.

All of those guys are bonafide NHL stars.

In the KHL, his numbers compare closest to Artemi Panarin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeny Dadonov, Jamomir Jagr, and Jori Lehtera.

Every single one of those players has scored at least 100 points in the NHL and most of them are bonafide NHL stars.

In the Olympics, Gusev led the tournament with 12 points in 6 games. Others to lead the Olympics in points are Phil Kessel (2014), Erik Karlsson (2014), Pavol Demitra (2010), Teemu Selänne (2006), and Saku Koivu (2006).

Every single one of those guys has scored at least 550 NHL points and all of them are or were bonafide NHL stars.

Nikita Gusev is a prospect. Like Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko. Like Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid. Like Cody Glass or Erik Brannstrom. Yes, there are unknowns, but all prospects aren’t created equal. There’s an extensive history behind each that helps predict future success and Gusev’s is about as strong and solid as any prospect to enter the league in the past 10 years.

You can doubt the KHL numbers because of Shipachyov. You can say the Olympics weren’t played with the best players. You can write off the World Championships because of the big ice. You can throw out the World Juniors because it was so long ago. But to ignore all of them because “he hasn’t played in the NHL” is ridiculous.

So stop.

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32 Comments

  1. Scott

    Well said.

    George and Kelly, please don’t trade Gusev.

  2. Slr82

    Ken, Thank you for finally saying that. There’s a reason that The Golden Knights front office pursued his rights in the Expansion Draft. I feel the Golden Knights would be foolish to not keep him, even if it means using some callups from Chicago. Yes, we are built to compete for it all now, however, we can’t overlook the fact that we need to continue to build from within. We brought a whole new line in, from the outside and it came at an expensive cost. Gusev is a bargain at the moment and the Knights really need to live up to where they are from and take a gamble on this prospective prospect.

  3. Brian

    You’re reading quite a bit into this……. !

  4. VGK Fan 4 Life STEVE

    T H A N K Y O U !

  5. Carmine

    Exactly. Hope McPhee can maneuver roster to let Gusev play for VGK. If not, he’ll have a team that will be hard pressed to match last year’s and won’t come close to the accomplishments of year one. Don’t forget the Forsberg trade George, and let this player in his prime play for us. He’s more of a known then any draft picks or “prospects” you’d trade him for.

  6. schmitty 88

    work your magic George this team needs to be back in the cup

  7. Brian S Lawrence

    Hoping someone will change my mind, but Gusev has yet to play on an NHL sized rink. Yes, the guy is fast and he he has great puck control, but if you watch his highlight reels you’ll see he goes unchallenged the majority of the time. What happens when he gets knocked on his ass by someone like Kane or Wilson?

  8. Carl

    Between you and Granger, my mind was changed about keeping Reavo and his muscle. Now I read this and my whole f’king day is ruined. I pray that the McBro’s don’t do a Golden F*ck Up and let Gusev go. Pay him his 4×2 and build a big display for Lord Stanley.

  9. Lynn Romano

    Amen!

  10. Rick

    Thank you Ken. You put it in perspective. How do you possibly move a player like this when there are alternatives. We can’t trade him – for what? No cap space so we can’t get anyone immediately. Two years of first round draft picks? … that would be nice, but doubt we can get that and it might not be enough unless they are real high draft picks. I’m not certain- don’t we get the Clarkson cap hit back opening day? Can’t we limp until then? Letting Gusev go could be something we regret for many years.

  11. Christopher

    Ken. It’s not about what he’s done. He’s a great player on the KHL and in international play. Larger Sheet of ice, more room. It’s about giving a player $4 million for never stepping foot on the ice in the NHL. What if he isn’t the player you think he’s going to be. Look at the leading scoring list, who is 3rd on that list? Shipachyov, he was a cant miss player too. He didn’t even make the roster and we shipped him back. Why hasn’t Gusev come to the NHL sooner? I here Panarin and Kucherov’s names being thrown out in comparison. They are younger or the same age, but they’ve been playing in the NHL for several years now. So yeah some of us are a little wary of a 27year old just coming over. Giving him a contract that he wants, would have been like signing Karlsson to a long term deal after the 2017-2018 season. We don’t have the money to sign Gusev to a deal he’d like, so there isn’t much we can do. McPhee can be a dick and sign him to whatever he wants and Gusev cans say a thing or go back to the KHL. But I think McPhee is trying to get him a shot in the NHL and trying to make sure our team doesn’t get hosed on the deal. There is a reason his rights haven’t been traded yet. We are probably getting low balled. We don’t have to trade his rights away. But we don’t have to sign him to a 2-year , $4m AAV contract either. I’m all for signing him for $2.5m/year, max.

    • Brian S Lawrence

      You absolutely nailed it!

      • Gander

        no, he didn’t. McPhee backed himself into a corner by trading Haula BEFORE he signed Gusev. That was catnip to Gusev’s agent. Now McPhee has lowballed himself on trade return offers because he eliminated a big option he had and then blew.

        I hope you enjoy watching Holden sitting in the stands while the Knights lose good players because of him.

        Good luck getting anyone top 6-ish these days for 2.5, dream on.

        • Carl

          Holden will cause Vegas to lose good players?

          Who brought in Holden in the first place? Did Holden show up one day and tell McPhee to give him 2 x 2.2?

          McPhee just sleeping in the bed he made by bringing in two overpaid players.

        • THE hockey GOD

          “McPhee backed himself into a corner by trading Haula BEFORE he signed Gusev.” that is a bit of a stretch since Gusev’s agent wasn’t moving, and ex GMGM was up against a deadline. There is a good chance that Gusev will remain unsigned at start of season and go the Theodore route. Why not ?

  12. Jackson

    Thank you for enlightening us. We have no reason to 2nd guess the masterminds who’ve constructed the Golden Knights. I have full confidence Kelly McCrimmon and George McPhee will do what’s right for the organization with all the information they have. Sure makes for an interesting off-season.

  13. Scott Carlson

    Amen Ken we must save the Russian I am so pissed he has not been signed yet!!!

  14. Scott

    Don’t squeeze the Goose!!!

  15. DOC

    I am convinced that the Knights signed him to that entry contract was because they were planning on putting him into the lineup for the second series of the playoffs. BUT, the game 7 disaster happened against SJ. There went THAT out the window. I feel Knights NEED to sign this guy …. PERIOD. But to have cap space to do it, it’s obvious others still need to go. Ekins, Revo, others????? Not going to be easy or pleasant.

    • Joe

      Unless you move someone in the top 6, it has to be Reaves and Holden. You can’t move Eakin at this point because you no longer have the penalty kill center depth with PEB signing with Colorado and trading Haula to Carolina.
      Going into free agency, you would only be able to keep one of these without moving Eakin:
      1) Gusev
      2) Bellemare and Haula
      3) Reaves and Holden
      I don’t care if it is for one conditional 7th round pick in 2022, you have to move those last two guys and keep Gusev.

      • A Fan

        Pretty much spot on. Holden for sure, then either Reaves or Eakin. Both Eakin and Reaves are UFA’s after this season. Most would deem Eakin more important than Reaves for this year, but if we get Gusev, maybe our 2 GM’s won’t think that is the case. I really hate to lose either of them, but I’m on the Gusev bandwagon also. I think he has the potential to be an elite player in the NHL. I can’t wait to see how this all turns out.

  16. Mike G

    You gotta move Eakin. He has the most value out of the players discussed. Give him away for free it they’ll take the Holden contract with it. Cody Glass can play 3rd line center. They’ll figure out pk with Karlsson, Stone, Stastny, and Nosex

    • Bill

      moving Eakin makes it nearly impossible to win the cup, our bottom 2 centers would be either a rookie or subpar. Move Reaves and Holden and it doesn’t change much.

      • Don

        Correct. and don’t forget that Stastny gets injured every so often. Eakin filled in for him last year. That would leave the Knights with Wild Bill and a “Glass” half full

  17. DOC

    Yea … Forgot about Holden. Never been impressed that much with him. I love Eaken and of course Revo has brought respect from the intimidation/inforcer side. Would we move enough money if it WAS Holden & Reeves????

  18. Vgk4life

    Maybe give him number 87 and then send him to the minors? Here’s a novel idea, move Shea Theodore to a wing spot and let another blue line move in. Someone who will actually play defense. And we have a big contract winger who can fly all around the ice doing whatever he wants.

  19. Royam

    I don’t think Gusev wants to be a 3rd line LW’er either. So my guess is that he doesn’t even want to play for Vegas and that’s why he’ll be traded. The writing was on the wall when he comes in last year and GG doesn’t even say hi to him. He was brought over to make him more appealing to other teams with his ELC being over.

  20. BenedictGomez

    Disagree. The fact he’s accomplished this in the KHL is a concern to any potential acquirer. It’s also rather obviously a “concern” to Las Vegas, or they’d clear cap & keep him if they were as certain as this writer that Gusev is 100% going to be a star. The writer also fails to note (while simultaneously mentioning youngsters like Hughes & Matthews) that Gusev is 27 years old while mentioning him as a “prospect”. Personally, I think taking a risk on Gusev is the right thing to do, but to act as if it’s essentially risk free, is wrong.

  21. Dman

    here is the real kicker………. teams are only offering a 2nd round pick and a lower tier prospect in return.

    so, if McPhee makes that trade, he is completely incompetent.

    He would basically be saying that Holden and Reaves are more important than Gusev, Haula, and Miller… COMBINED

    He ends his gm role in total disgrace if he goes that route

  22. Bill

    To me it is basically Reaves for Gusev, Holden feels like he isn’t going to play much anyway so cutting or trading him doesn’t hurt. So you can trade Reaves and sign Gusev even if it is a late round pick for Reaves you basically got Gusev and a pick for Reaves. How is that not a win?

  23. Rick Vaughan

    I’ve watched this guy play since he was with Ugra. It’s been amazing to witness his development and maturity. Playing on a line with Datsyuk the last two seasons has taken his game to another level. With the right off-ice support for himself and his young family, he’s going to be brilliant no matter where he ends up. I can’t wait to see him play in the NHL!

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