Valeri Nichushkin is arguably the most interesting, if slightly perplexing, forward among the top prospects heading into Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft.

The Russian winger is physically imposing, skates well and is said to have all the tools needed to make an NHL roster next season.

“He’s a very intriguing player,” Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said this week.

Carolina, barring a trade, will have the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, its highest since 2005. If Nichushkin is available when the time comes Sunday, the Canes may not be able to pass on him.

There should be other promising options at No. 5 – forwards such as Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League and Elias Lindholm, who played well in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year-old last season. If defenseman Seth Jones isn’t taken with one of the top four picks, he may be Carolina’s target, but Rutherford said the Canes are “leaning” toward selecting a forward.

Nichushkin, a blend of power and skill at 6-3 and 196 pounds, could give the Hurricanes more size as they move into a new NHL division next season. Canes coach Kirk Muller would like that.

“He’s a physical specimen with high-end offensive talent,” said ESPN.com draft analyst Grant Sonier, a former NHL scout.

Still, Sonier and others bring up the “Russian factor” so widely discussed in the NHL. Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League is a competitor for top talent, enticing and signing players away from the NHL.

Nichushkin was the KHL’s rookie of the year last season with Traktor Chelyabinsk and he was under contract for the next two years. He was traded in late April to Dynamo Moscow of the KHL.

He has said he is committed to playing in the NHL next season, but with a caveat – if he doesn’t make an NHL roster, he wants to return to Dynamo.

“The ‘Russian factor’ is legit,” Sonier said. “What we’ve seen with some Russian players is they say the right things and they say they want to play in the NHL, but the first minute they have to deal with adversity they know they have that golden pot of money back in Russia. That might scare me.”