Acquired by the Cougars in a January trade with Moose Jaw, the 6’5”, 202 pound winger is coming off a terrific second season in the Western Hockey League. In 71 games (split with Moose Jaw and Prince George) Popugaev scored 29 goal and 40 assists for 69 points. He added eight power play goals, 69 penalty minutes and finished with a +12 rating. In 141 career WHL games he has tallied 45 goals and 71 assists for 116 points. In 12 career playoff games he’s added three goals and four assists for seven points.
Internationally Popugaev represented Russia in the 2016 Canada Russia Series where he recorded an assist in two games. In 2014 he scored three goals in six games for Russia during the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and helped guide them to a Gold Medal. In June 2015 he was selected 23rd overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the CHL Import Draft. He’s the first European-born Cougar drafted to the NHL since Marek Viedensky was selected by the San Jose Sharks in 2009.
“First of all we want to congratulate Nikita and his family on reaching this milestone together,” said Cougars General Manager, Todd Harkins, in a press release. “The New Jersey Devils are getting a terrific talent who has the size, skill and work-ethic necessary to be an impact offensive player in the National Hockey League for many years to come. We’re very excited for him and we wish him the very best as he prepares for his first NHL Training Camp in the fall.”
Popugaev is the second Cougar ever to be selected by the Devils in the history of the franchise (Chris Mason, 1995). You can follow along with the 2017 NHL Draft at www.sportsnet.ca.