Detroit Red Wings Player Preview: Gustav Nyquist

For Nyquist, is the best still to come?

Last Season

Nyquist had two narratives running last season. One was that he struggled early after a hot start on a line with Thomas Vanek and Darren Helm, and went through some awful goal-less stretches before finding his form again in the later parts of the season (or, as much form as any Wing could last year, at any rate.) The other narrative was that Nyquist was bad when he was expected to be good and then scored a bunch of meaningless points after the season was already effectively over. Personally, I believe in the narrative that suggests Nyquist is a proud professional hockey player.

Nyquist scored 48 points (12G, 36A) last year, which was an improvement over the previous season at 42 points. He ended up with a tremendous increase in assists, but also a five-goal decline. This was a point of focus, as it coincided with Detroit’s brutal stretch during November and December, when a regulation win felt like a unicorn. He finished strong, piling up the majority of his points after the new year and closing the season with a CF% of 50.6, which is not what you want from one of your best players, but can also be viewed as encouraging when looking at how bad the Red Wings were at times last year.

By the season’s end, a lot of fans were wondering if Nyquist had simply completed a multi-year transition from a sniper to a playmaker, which is a description of himself he has long asserted. It’s a fair conjecture, since his goal totals have dropped every since he was in the league, but with a player in his prime like Nyquist, he still has some surprising seasons left in his tank.

Trade Stuff

I’m just gong to lay down my thoughts here, which are my opinion and not necessarily that of WiiM’s as a whole. But here’s where I’m at. Nyquist is not getting traded from the Red Wings, no matter how bad they are this year. He is two years into a four year contract and holds a No Trade Clause that kicks into effect this season. He’s got a solid cap hit of 4.75 mil per year, which is great for a player of his caliber. The NTC may not be super ideal for the team, but a team’s best players are going to get NTC’s. In a way, it is a vote of confidence of how the organization values Nyquist. Compared to other veteran forwards on the roster, I have no problem with this.

But the other reason I do not expect Nyquist to be traded for the duration of his contract is the bond that he is the last piece of the Swedish Connection. The Red Wings value the Swedish culture in the organization, and this is a very good thing for the Red Wings to have. Perhaps Nyquist is only a stopgap between Zetterberg and another great Swede to play for the Red Wings, but he is important in transferring that culture to whoever comes next.

This Season

Predicting where Nyquist lands this season is easy for me, but that’s because I’m optimistic to a fault, and the dude’s jersey is hanging in my home. Nyquist doesn’t have quite the flash that Tatar does, and the trio of exciting upcoming forwards can be more electrifying because of their untapped potential, so it is sometimes easy to forget that Nyquist is right in his prime years. He’s gathered a lot of experience in the NHL, and has a vision on the ice that he didn’t possess when he arrived here, and his play has improved in all three zones. Nyquist’s best years may still be ahead of him.

Whether these best years are reflected in his statistics remains to be seen, but again, I’m optimistic to a fault. Look for him to be on either Zetterberg’s wing or as a defensively responsible forward to help Larkin develop into a true NHL centerman.

Predict Nyquist’s point spread for 2017-18

28G and 36A, matching his best totals for each stat.56
21G and 29A, getting more consistent time and passes from Zetterberg.132
16G and 39A, helping Larkin recover from his sophomore slump.160
10G and 25A, an awful season and the beginning of a painful regression.43
0G and 0A until the day after the trade deadline, when he scores a double hat trick.7

I’m calling for 16 goals, 39 assists, for a career high 55 points. As Blashill and Holland sit in tenuous positions, I think Nyquist is one of the players who stands to benefit. What about you?