The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/18/14 at 02:52 PM ET
Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist played absolutely dominant hockey down the stretch, but proving that he can still score at a good clip while dealing with the intense checking and one-on-one shut-down match-ups of playoff hockey might tell the tale as to whether Nyquist could be another Henrik Zetterberg in the making.
Custance spoke with Nyquist's coach at the University of Maine, Tim Whitehead, the Wings' Swedish super-scout, Hakan Andersson, Griffins coach Jeff Blashill and former Wings assitstant GM Jim Nill about Nyquist's blossoming, but Custance reports that the biggest difference-maker in terms of Nyquist's physical, mental and skill development was and is Nyquist himself:
Watching Nyquist now -- physically filled out, his game matured by three years in college, another 122 games in the American Hockey League and 97 games in Detroit over the last three seasons -- you wonder how it was possible for the hockey world to miss the guy who scored 28 goals in 57 games this season to help lift the Red Wings into the playoffs.
Even the Red Wings, widely praised for landing Nyquist in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, passed on him completely when he was first draft eligible the previous year, just like every other team in the league. Before taking him in 2008, they made two other picks (Thomas McCollum and Max Nicastro) and Hakan Andersson, their head scout in Europe, didn't sense a ton of NHL interest in Nyquist aside from the Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers.
If you're looking to credit someone for the development of a star, the credit goes to the player. Just look at his improvement in those fitness tests at Maine. A fast time for a professional hockey player in the Flying 50 is anything under 1.51 seconds. In 2009, Nyquist was at 1.57. In 2010, he got it down to 1.49.
When he arrived at Maine in September 2008, he weighed 166 pounds. When he left to play for the Red Wings' minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids, he was at 184 pounds with 7.8 percent body fat. Those 20 pounds weren't the kind you and I put on in college. This was pure strength and power.
"He trained so hard in the weight room," Whitehead said. "He was driven to get better and better and better."
That's the attribute Andersson liked best when he sat down with Nyquist the first time leading up to the draft. Some players Andersson would talk to were shy and stared at the floor. Other players were so confident in their abilities they wouldn't take instruction. Nyquist was neither. He was inquisitive. He made eye contact, asking questions in such a way that his eyes are still something Andersson remembers about those first conversations.
Custance continues, and his article's worth your time...
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.