Chilliwack Chiefs land NHL draft-eligible forward Nikita Nesterenko

There’s a very good chance the future Brown University Bear will be selected by a pro team in June.

A forward who may be drafted by a National Hockey League team in June is going to be playing for the Chilliwack Chiefs in September.

The team has secured the services of 2001-born forward Nikita Nesterenko.

The New York native with the Russian-sounding name is ranked 121st among North American skaters heading into the NHL draft after lighting it up with his prep school team last season.

Nesterenko has played three seasons for Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. He posted 30 goals and 59 points in 31 games last season.

Nesterenko also spent time with a pair of travel teams.

In 10 games with the Atlantic Youth Hockey League’s New Jersey Jr. Titans, Nesterenko had 12 goals and 24 points. In three appearances with a Jr. Titans entry in the East Coast Elite League, the teenager produced five goals and seven points.

“He’s a dynamic forward with great speed and good size who creates offence,” said Chiefs associate coach/assistant general manager Brad Rihela. “He’s a character kid who gets a lot of good reviews from coaches and scouts.

“I’ve had lots of good chats with Nikita and his family and gotten to know them pretty well. We’re confident that it’s going to be a very good for him in Chilliwack.”

Rihela said the Chiefs want to play fast and Nesterenko’s game is built around his wheels. He comes to Chilliwack with a college commitment to Brown University already in hand.

“Hockey is a fast game and I feel we’ve done a good job of bringing in players who can move pucks and let the puck do the work,” Rihela said. “It’s a counter game and we want guys who can react at pace and under pressure.

“Nikita is a guy who excels in those areas.”

Nesterenko is part of a growing wave of players who are bypassing major junior in favour of junior A/college and still getting noticed by the NHL. Guys like Kyle Turris, Dante Fabbro, Dennis Cholowski and Tyson Jost have shown it’s possible to make the big leagues through the BCHL.

“You’re starting to see a lot more NHL players coming out of tier-two junior and the NCAA,” Rihela said. “The exposure is there and players are seeing there are other options.”

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