By Ashley Dunkak
JOE LOUIS ARENA (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Red Wings would have gotten drummed out of the playoff picture a long time earlier had not a youth movement led by 24-year-old Gustav Nyquist kept the team in contention.
Nyquist scored two more goals Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, following up a stellar four games after which the NHL named Nyquist its First Star of the Week. Detroit went 3-0-1, and the youngster scored six goals in those four games.
With 42 points in 47 games, Nyquist leads the team with 25 goals, eight more than the second-highest scorer.
“I don’t think anyone expected him to have this many goals in this amount of games, but we always knew he was a good player, and the situation that happened in the beginning of the year, when he went down and played well in Grand Rapids, as soon as he came up, he showed where he belonged, and he just kept going,” Red Wings star forward Henrik Zetterberg said Wednesday. “Guys here is not really surprised. He is a good player, he can create a lot of stuff by himself, and he plays with good players. Good stuff happens.”
Nyquist had bounced between the Red Wings and the Grand Rapids Griffins several times, and with Detroit missing a plethora of players due to injury, Nyquist has taken advantage.
“He’s a guy who’s been a good player for a long time, and I think confidence is a huge part of it, and just learning your way, but more importantly, probably, than that, just feeling good about who you are so you get confident with the puck,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “You get out there, you’re not tense, you’re not giving the puck away, you’re relaxed with it. You earn those things. No one gives them to you. He gets the ice time because he’s earned it.”
Nyquist played 18 games for Detroit in the 2011-2012 season and 22 games for the Red Wings last year. Now he is leading the team’s playoff charge and has participated in 47 NHL games in the 2013-2014 season.
“He’s been a dominant scorer in every league he’s ever played in,” Babcock said. “He’s got great hockey IQ. He seems to be mature beyond his years, and he’s a good player for us. Those guys are getting large opportunities … When you get it, and you do it, you get to keep it, and that’s just the way it is. Without any question, that line’s been our best line. They’ve been carrying us. He’s got real good numbers here lately, and we need him to keep going.”
Nyquist himself has deflected the praise and questions about how well he has played of late. He credits his teammates, and he mentions the fortunate bounces that have turned some of his shots into goals. Any way a goal happens, of course, is nice to see, as Nyquist puts it, though he reminds reporters the reflections will not always go his way.
Zetterberg showed more enthusiasm.
“It’s awesome to see,” Zetterberg said. “Ever since he came up this year, he started, he scored right away and basically hasn’t stopped. It is fun. He’s a hard-working guy. He’s a big part of our group, and he’s the hottest player in the league right now. We’re all hoping it’s just going to continue.”