Bruins are next test for Nyquist

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When Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist attended the University of Maine, the Black Bears' staff conducted on-ice tests to measure just how fast their skaters were.

One was called the Flying 50, in which skaters took off from one goal, skated around the far net and came back. Laser timers between the blue lines recorded how long it took them to skate through the neutral zone.

The other was more grueling. The Chicago Three Lap required skaters to skate three laps around the rink, then rest three minutes, skate another three laps around the rink and rest three minutes, then skate three more laps.

When Nyquist arrived at Maine from Sweden as a skinny freshman, his performance in those tests didn't lead you to believe he might one day be in the NHL blowing past Zdeno Chara to score a crucial goal for a team pushing to make the playoffs.

"He was quick but not fast," former Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said. "Initially, it was quick bursts. Now you see him using those quick bursts of speed, and he can really sustain it now."

Watching Nyquist now -- physically filled out, his game matured by three years in college, another 122 games in the American Hockey League and 97 games in Detroit over the past three seasons -- you wonder how it was possible for the hockey world to miss the guy who scored 28 goals in 57 games this season to help lift the Red Wings into the playoffs.

Even the Red Wings, widely praised for landing Nyquist in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, passed on him completely when he was first draft eligible the previous year, just like every other team in the league. Before taking him in 2008, they made two other picks ( Thomas McCollum and Max Nicastro), and Hakan Andersson, their head scout in Europe, didn't sense a ton of NHL interest in Nyquist aside from the Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers.

If you're looking to credit someone for the development of a star, the credit goes to the player. Just look at his improvement in those fitness tests at Maine. A fast time for a professional hockey player in the Flying 50 is anything under 1.51 seconds. In 2009, Nyquist was at 1.57. In 2010, he got it down to 1.49.

When he arrived at Maine in September 2008, he weighed 166 pounds. When he left to play for the Red Wings' minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., he was at 184 pounds with 7.8 percent body fat. Those 20 pounds weren't the kind you and I put on in college. This was pure strength and power.

"He trained so hard in the weight room," Whitehead said. "He was driven to get better and better and better."

That's the attribute Andersson liked best when he sat down with Nyquist the first time leading up to the draft. Some players Andersson would talk to were shy and stared at the floor. Other players were so confident in their abilities they wouldn't take instruction. Nyquist was neither. He was inquisitive. He made eye contact, asking questions in such a way that his eyes are still something Andersson remembers about those first conversations.

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