Gustav Nyquist, 5-11, 176 pounds
September 1, 1989 (32 years old)
Signed as a free agent, July 1, 2019
Cap hit: $5.5M through 2022-23
Role: Middle six winger
While the summer of 2019 will always be remembered for the players who left, the Blue Jackets can take one big positive from free agency that year: Gustav Nyquist. Since being signed by the Blue Jackets three years ago, Nyquist has quietly been a consistent two-way player for the team; in 152 games he has 33 goals and 95 points. In spite of missing the entire 2020-21 season due to injury, “Gus” bounced back in a big way in 2021-22, and has easily been one of the best free agent success stories in Blue Jacket history.
Originally a 4th round pick (#121 overall) at the 2008 NHL draft, Nyquist is one of the last lingering mid-late round finds from the historic Detroit Red Wings’ run of finding talent later in the draft. Like many other picks from that era, he took the slow route to the NHL before finally becoming a full-time player in the 2013-14 season. Right from the start of his career, Gus was a consistent offensive player, totaling 164 goals and 401 points in 652 career games, split between Detroit, San Jose, and Columbus.
For the Blue Jackets, his offensive output was much needed after losing most of their offense that same summer. But Nyquist has meant more than just consistent productivity for the club. He’s brought much-needed leadership qualities to the young team, and has been a surprisingly effective penalty killer. Certainly, nobody would expect him to replace the production of a player like Artemi Panarin – but he’s been a valuable asset to this team because of the other intangibles. He’s certainly helped accelerate the team’s rebuilding process.
Three Keys to Success
- Be a leader. This one should be really easy because he leads by example. He doesn’t speak up much, and doesn’t really need to. Basically, just be Gus, and set the example for the younger players around him.
- Shoot more. Nyquist is a pass-first player (unless the net is empty). In 82 games last season he had just 122 shots on goal. Like we mentioned with Jakub Voracek, he should take more chances on goal, if nothing else it will make defenses think twice about his next move.
- Remain consistent. He’ll be in the final year of his contract this season, and I don’t honestly see him getting an extension with the Blue Jackets. He should be looking to produce consistently, as he always does – with an eye towards cashing in on one more UFA deal.
2022-23 Expectation: Lead a line.
It goes without saying that Nyquist won’t be a top-line player for the Blue Jackets this season, barring injuries. I think the best usage for him would be mentoring a young line. The talent is there for him to do that and be productive. Since he and Voracek are both pass-first guys, put each of them on a separate line with two of the younger players, and treat them as on-ice coaches. The veteran wisdom he can pass on could be extremely valuable for young wingers like Yegor Chinakhov, Kent Johnson, or Kirill Marchenko. They should use every opportunity to soak up some of that savvy, and become better professional players.