Valeri Nichushkin's selection to Team Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics came as a surprise to many. Not many 18-year-olds make the Olympics with less than half of their rookie season under their belt.
Nichushkin had to be thrilled at his inclusion, but a report from Russia indicates that his coaches aren't nearly as enthused. In fact, a rift appears to have opened up between Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and general manager Alexei Yashin about whether the rookie deserves to play in Sochi.
Did Nichushkin earn his spot, or was it a premature gift? Bilyaletdinov told reporters on Tuesday that his roster spot was an "advance payment", something Nichushkin "must justify" in Sochi. Yashin felt differently.
"It's hard to talk about an advance payment. It's the wrong word," said Yashin, who played 850 career NHL games. "Nichushkin has earned the call to the Olympics with his game."
His numbers seem to back it up. Nichushkin has nine goals and 13 assists in 41 games for Dallas after a blistering December that rocketed him into contention for the Calder Trophy. Nichushkin will get a chance to prove his worth in Sochi on February 13 when Russia takes on Slovakia.