There's no telling what direction the 2013 NHL Draft will take when the "Big Three" of defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads are off the board.

Some believe Finnish center Aleksander Barkov, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's list of the top draft-eligible European skaters, is next in line. Others are pretty sure it's Valeri Nichushkin, one of the finest Russian players available at the draft since 2004, when Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went Nos. 1 and 2.

There's no denying the fact Nichushkin, a 6-foot-4, 202-pound right wing, possesses the size, confidence and skills required to play in the NHL. The only question is: Can he consistently deliver each and every night over an 82-game season?

"When Nichushkin is at his best, he's by far better than Barkov, but he's not always at his best," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told

Nichushkin said he is confident he'll be able to play consistently with better players surrounding him in the NHL.

"As a young player, I realize I have to work hard and prove everything," Nichushkin told through an interpreter. "It doesn't matter to me which pick I will be. The most important thing is that the team that drafts [me] knows I will be a real valuable player."

Nichushkin, No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters, has made public his desire to play in North America in 2013-14. He terminated his contract with Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League in order to play in the NHL season, but there is a stipulation.

"If he's not playing in the NHL, he's going to have to play for Dynamo," Nichushkin's agent, Mark Gandler, said. "The termination [of his contract] occurred without compensation to the team. [Returning to Dynamo if he isn't playing in the NHL] is what we would owe the team for that provision."

However, Gandler believes that won't be an issue. And he's not the only one. When asked how confident he was that he would be in the NHL in 2013-14, Nichushkin said, "100 percent sure."

"I feel Alexander Semin might be one of the best passers in the League," Gandler said of one of his other clients. "Nichushkin has that ability to see like Semin and make a crisp pass without looking and know where everyone is. That makes him extremely dangerous, especially when he gets to play with good players in the NHL."

Gandler told that Nichushkin and his other two Russian clients participating in the NHL Scouting Combine this week, left wing Pavel Buchnevich and center Bogdan Yakimov, will train together over the summer at Power Train Sports Institute in Manheim, Pa., under the guidance of Steve Saunders. The institute specializes in preparing college football players for the NFL Combine.