Valeri Nichushkin has trouble speaking English but there’s no doubt he understands what’s being said.

In fact it seems the 18-year-old Russian winger understands everything.

Nichushkin is in a new land trying to make it in a new league and accomplish something few others his age have. And yet he seems to have a determination and confidence that’s stronger than even his most ardent supporters.

“He says he doesn’t want to be anyone else that he only wants to be Valeri Nichushkin” said defenseman Sergei Gonchar the other Russian on the Stars roster acting as a translator. “All he ever wanted to be is the best person he can be.”

But the comparisons come. Nichushkin is a young Russian scorer and the history of recent NHL players shows that’s a difficult position to be in. One those players often lean far too heavily on skill and struggle to keep up with the physical play in the NHL. Two the cultural differences can make it difficult to communicate with NHL coaches. Three the siren call of open ice and fawning fans in the Russian-based KHL makes it all too easy to leave.

History lesson

Nikita Filatov was taken sixth overall by Columbus in 2008. He battled with coach Ken Hitchcock was traded to Ottawa and was back in the KHL by age 21.

Alexander Radulov was drafted 14th overall by Nashville in 2004 and seemed a good fit with the Predators for a couple of seasons. But then he signed contracts in the NHL and KHL and eventually found it easier to play in Russia.

Alexander Burmistrov was taken eighth overall in the 2010 entry draft. He played three NHL seasons and had limited scoring success. After last season’s shortened lockout campaign he decided to head back to the KHL at age 21 and now the Winnipeg Jets have nothing to show for their first-round pick.

“It definitely is a special circumstance when you draft a player from Russia and I think that’s one of the reasons you see people shying away from it” said Stars general manager Jim Nill. “It’s complicated.”

And yet Nill didn’t shy away from Nichushkin. The powerful 6-4 forward was slotted by many to go higher in the 2013 draft so when he slid to the Stars at No. 10 there was no way Nill could pass on him. What’s more Nill has a bit of an ace in the hole. He spent almost two decades in the Detroit Red Wings organization which has fostered a strong relationship with Russian players and he has plenty of contacts from that time.

“He spends time in Russia and understands the Russian system and any complications that might come up” Stars president Jim Lites said of Nill. “I feel pretty confident that Jim knows exactly what he’s doing and that we got a heck of a steal with this pick.”