Nikita Kucherov rose through the ranks of junior hockey to eventually star in the KHL. Kucherov appeared in 27 games across two seasons in the KHL, mustering up only seven points. This hurt how NHL teams viewed him, as there were 57 players taken ahead of him in the 2011 NHL entry draft. Once drafted, he ascended through the ranks fairly quickly, making his debut with the Lightning in the 2013-2014 season. It was not long afterward that he would become a household name amongst NHL fans.
Rise To Stardom
Kucherov proved he belonged in the lineup as soon as he debuted. He scored in his first game, on the first shot of his first shift. He beat Henrik Lundqvist, the New York Rangers goalie who was at the top of his game at the time. He would score nine goals and add in nine helpers in a total of 52 NHL games his rookie season. Kucherov’s rookie season was the only time he scored less than 60 points in a campaign. In his eight seasons, he has been voted to the all-star game five times, has won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading point-getter once, and the Hart Memorial Trophy awarded to the most valuable player in the league. At only 28 years old, he is only in the prime of his superstar career.
The Case For Mt. Rushmore
Kucherov has played only 515 games for the Lightning, so he does not hold any regular-season franchise records. Where he separates himself is post-season, where he leads the franchise in playoff goals (44), assists (83), and points (127). He could have won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP in each of the two cup-winning seasons without anyone batting an eye. If his 0.43 goals/game (second to only Stamkos), 0.63 assists/game (first in franchise history), and 1.06 points/game (first in franchise history) does not decline drastically, he will climb up the franchise ranks, maybe even unseating some records held by those in this article.