Not since Steven Stamkos has a Lightning scoring prospect generated as much excitement as Nikita Kucherov.
Regarded as one of the best players not playing in the NHL, Kucherov will lose that label tonight as the club’s 2011 second round pick will make his NHL debut against the Rangers.
Pure and simple, Kucherov is a point machine. He first got on the elite-scorers map when he shattered records at the 2011 U18 championships when he had 11 goals and 21 points in seven games. He followed that up with 24 goals and 43 points in just 23 MHL games in Russia, then had 29 goals and 63 points in 33 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games last season. As a rookie in AHL Syracuse this year, Kucherov has 13 goals and 24 points in 16 games. He also had 15 points (7 goals) in 14 World Junior Championship games spread out over two tournaments.
Originally known primarily for his shot, Kucherov’s vision is the best to come from a Lightning draft since Brad Richards. He sees the ice exceptionally well and has the ability to make every pass needed. Add to that quick decision-making and he’s a power play weapon.
Kucherov has as good a one-time pass as we’ve seen in quite some time out of a Lightning prospect. This is because he can think the game faster than most players; his hockey sense is off the charts.