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Is Nichushkin the most NHL-ready rookie?

Updated: September 18, 2013, 4:36 PM ET
By Craig Custance

To get an idea of how challenging it can be to make the adjustment to the life of an NHL rookie at 18 years old, consider this story from Steven Stamkos. He shared it last spring in explaining why it was difficult transitioning from a junior hockey star -- where every detail of his life was handled for him -- to a professional hockey player in Tampa.

"I get to play hockey in Florida ... things couldn't get much better, right?" Stamkos said. "I come here and it was tough."

He was living in a hotel. He had no car. No credit card. He needed a new cell phone.

One afternoon, he took a taxi cab from his hotel to a Best Buy and when the cab left, he realized he had no idea where he was. He knows now it was Dale Mabry Highway, but it was 100 degrees out, and he was walking up and down a strange road trying to buy a laptop and a cell phone.

"I had no clue how far I had to walk," he said, laughing. "I look back now and it's like, 'What was I doing?'... I didn't know anyone. I didn't know my surroundings. I was 18 years old. I can't even have a beer here [at that age]. I needed an American cell phone, just trying to get my life figured out. Even that was another kind of culture shock."

Now, imagine if Stamkos were in Russia. In a place where he didn't speak the language. A place where he couldn't read a sign, where the request to be dropped off at a Best Buy might be met with a blank stare.

Stamkos is about as well-adjusted a superstar as there is in the game. He's got talent, a willingness to learn and train to get better. But even he struggled in making the NHL transition on and off the ice.

This is just a long way of saying it's going to be just as challenging, if not more so, for Valeri Nichushkin, the Dallas Stars' No. 10 overall pick in June's draft. If Stamkos struggled with culture shock going from Sarnia to Tampa, it's fair to give Nichushkin time to make the adjustment from Chelyabinsk to Dallas.

It's part of the reason the Stars are being very careful with expectations right now, even when every shift Nichushkin takes on the ice screams he's ready to make an impact right now. Today.

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