Vegas Golden Knights: A (very) early assessment of the Nikita Gusev trade

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NEWARK, NJ- OCTOBER 17: Nikita Gusev #97 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his third period goal during the game against the New York Rangers on October 17, 2019 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Remember back in the summer when we were all losing our collective minds over the thought of the Vegas Golden Knights parting ways with Nikita Gusev?

Well, we are now a few months removed from the trade that sent the Russian stud to the New Jersey Devils, with the Vegas Golden Knights getting back two draft picks in return.

As such, we thought it would be fun to conduct a way too early assessment of how the trade has worked out for all parties so far.

Granted, things can change quickly in hockey and we will delve into this trade properly once the regular season has come to a close, but there is enough of a sample size to at least glance at how this trade is working out.

Nikita Gusev & The New Jersey Devils

Let’s start with Gusev and the Devils. It is fair to say that the Devils are not having the season they were expected to given the blockbuster off-season they enjoyed.

Not only did they win the race to trade for Gusev, before signing him to a two-year, $9 million contract on July, 31, they also took generational talent Jack Hughes with the No.1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, in addition to acquiring elite defenseman P.K. Subban and power forward Wayne Simmonds.

However, the Devils endured a disastrous start to the regular season and things haven’t really got better since. They currently sit seventh in the Metro Division and they rank low in a number of categories, including 27th in Goals For Per Game (2.58), 26th in Goals Against Per Game (3.47) and 27th on the power play (14.3).

They are currently dealing with long-term goaltending issues after veteran Corey Schneider was sent down to the AHL, and there are serious question marks hovering over the future of Taylor Hall who is in the last year of his current contract.

But what about Nikita Gusev?

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 15: Nikita Gusev #97 of the New Jersey Devils takes the puck during warm ups before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Prudential Center on November 15, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey.The New Jersey Devils are wearing special jerseys for pregame warm ups in honor of Military Appreciation Night. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Well, let’s look at the stats first. Through 16 games he has seven points (five goals, two assists) and a plus/minus rating of -1, while he has a CF% of 40.9 in 12:22 of average total ice time per game.

He has been a healthy scratch on a handful of occasions and he has proved to be a bit of a possession black hole, with his FF% percentage of 40.1 telling its own story.

Gusev did start the regular season on a line with rookie Jack Hughes, but has since been used on both the third and fourth line.

So, for a player trying to translate his dominance in the KHL in Russia to the NHL, it hasn’t been the smoothest of transitions so far.

However, there have been glimpses of elite talent from Gusev and there is hope among those in New Jersey that this is just a bedding-in period and the 27-year-old is slowly finding his feet in North America.

Our good friends at Pucks and Pitchforks have given us the following assessment of Gusev’s time with the Devils so far:

“So the eye test shows that he had a lot of trouble getting used to a lot of things about the NHL. He had trouble reading defensemen, there were serious issues with clearing the puck and the intangibles were taking longer than we’d hoped. He got healthy scratched to kind of look at the ice from above and things have been much better. He’s not making those same mistakes, especially in the defensive zone. Putting him on a line with Travis Zajac and Blake Coleman is definitely helping. They’ve had games together where they were the best line on the ice despite being teammates with Jack Hughes and Taylor Hall. But now that we’re here, we are starting to see he has immense scoring skill and smarts on the ice. He can pick pocket the best skaters on the ice.”

So, while it hasn’t exactly gone to plan for Nikita Gusev with the New Jersey Devils so far, there is genuine hope that he eventually puts it all together and thrives in the NHL. And, let’s keep in mind that he’s been playing on a bad team too.

Let’s now look at how the trade is working out for the Vegas Golden Knights…

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