When the Detroit Red Wings announce a late-round draft pick, everyone in the hockey world turns their head.
After all, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds.
Gustav Nyquist, the Wings’ fourth round (121st overall) draft pick in 2008 is another one of those picks that has people wondering, “Just how do those darn Wings do it?” Nyquist began his career in Sweden, then decided to attend the University of Maine to play NCAA hockey instead of taking the more popular route of Canadian major junior.
“I’ve always thought that education is important,” Nyquist said. “If something happens to you, if you get hurt or if hockey doesn’t work out, you always have a great education to go back on. I think (Maine) did a great job of recruiting me. I spoke a lot with (the coaches). I saw a few games up here and the area is unbelievable. I think they have the best fans in college hockey.”
Nyquist’s strengths don’t go unnoticed by his peers or coaches. The finance major and Hobey Baker finalist won Maine’s MVP award after putting up 61 points in 39 games in his sophomore year.
“Gustav is a tremendous student-athlete here at Maine,” said coach Tim Whitehead. “He’s an honor student and an elite hockey player who I believe will play in the NHL some day.
“He’s so dynamic offensively. He’s a game-breaker. He can change the course of a game almost single-handedly. He’s got very deceptive speed and he can skate with the puck with his head up, really fast, in traffic. He’s got a wicked wrist shot and if you’re on the ice with him, he’ll find you, even if you’re not open. His other big strength is his competitiveness. He competes in traffic. He finds a way to win loose pucks and make plays under pressure.”
One of the problems coaches often deal with is players who solely want to be offensive stars. Whitehead says he doesn’t have that problem with Nyquist.
“He’s become a complete player in that I’ll use him in every situation – power play, penalty kill, protecting a one-goal lead – he’s really a complete player,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead explained Nyquist has become a leader on the team, despite being a younger student from another country. In fact, Nyquist will be named one of the team captains for next season, something he takes great pride in.
“That’s a huge honor to me,” Nyquist said. “If I were to be a captain next year I would obviously be very honored…it would be fun to join our current captains up there.”
Being drafted by the Red Wings was also a special moment for Nyquist, as he joined the ranks of nine other Swedes, including Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen, who have made the Red Wings franchise so successful.
“One of my dreams is to play for the Detroit Red Wings,” Nyquist said. “I’m committed to majoring right now, but I know there’s a great opportunity for me when the right time comes. I’m really excited for next year, but obviously I’m very excited about the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL.”
THN.com’s Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.
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