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Looking to make the leap: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Aug 18, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

Washington Capitals v Nashville Predators Getty Images

Despite being just 22 years old, it feels like people have been waiting for Evgeny Kuznetsov to make “the leap” for quite some time … only that leap was once just jumping from the KHL to the NHL.

He did that in abbreviated fashion last season, scoring three goals and nine points in 17 games while showing flashes of the first-round brilliance prospect-minded people have been touting for some time.

With Mikhail Grabovski headed to Long Island, new Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said that he’ll probably open up competition for second and third-line center spots between Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky. One would think Kuznetsov has a strong chance of at least grabbing that third-line job, yet that might come down to how well he meshes with Trotz and how much his game has progressed over the summer.

Former Capitals coach Adam Oates cautioned himself against the “wow factor” with Kuznetsov, which is an understandable fear when you consider the kind of game-breaking ability he showed, especially on this memorable assist against the Vancouver Canucks:

Even among NHL head coaches, Trotz is noted for favoring stability over sizzle. With that in mind, this sobering analysis from Japers Rink might prompt some to worry if the new Caps coach can overlook Kuznetsov’s defensive lapses:

Yes, it’s a small sample and he was new to NHL hockey, but Kuznetsov’s possession numbers were horrible. Only Tyson Strachan, Julien Brouillette, and Aaron Volpatti had worse Corsi percentages (add Patrick Wey to the Fenwick list). Even acknowledging that the season in which he joined the Caps was a complete cluster, and that he played with grinders as much as he played with skill guys, every player that skated 32 minutes or more with Kuznetsov had better numbers without Kuznetsov, usually by a lot (and it’s not because skating with Kuznetsov meant taking tougher defensive assignments).

In other words, there might be some “high-risk, high-reward” elements to the younger player’s game at this stage … which might only make him more interesting to watch during the 2014-15 season.

  1. lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    I would choose Andre Burakovsky for this list just cause Kuznetsov is an absolute lock to make the team. Skill, hockey IQ, skating ability, kid should be a stud, especially if he plays with Backstrom and Ovi. As for the Corsi percentage, there’s a simple answer to that: and that’s that he played with Aaron Volpatti, who was the worst possession player in the league. His other linemate, Tom Wilson, was still developing and his 19 games shouldn’t be viewed negatively–Oates left him on the fourth line the whole time with one of the worst fourth lines in hockey (sorry, Wilson–I’m expectin big things from ya) and refused to move him except for a few shifts or two or three games. The fact that he still produced well playing with untalented linemates, while adapting to North American ice for the first time ever, is extremely promising. Also, he has an underrated defensive conscience and a lot of people think he can become a very good two-way forward. So excited about him, has the potential to be a 70+ point guy and great complimentary player to Ovi and Backstrom. As for Burakovsky, kid is a stud, Trotz loved him at development camp and wants to give him a shot at the 2C role, and he has a good chance. Great mind for the game and as sick a wrister off the rush as you’ll see. With those two and Jakub Vrana in our pipeline, our top-6 will be awesome three years from now.

    • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:14 PM

      *By “his 19 games”, I mean Kuznetsov’s, not Wilson’s.

  2. bullwinkle88 - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    My question is, where do you draft him on your fantasy team – if at all?

    • bethgoesglobal - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:14 AM

      If you’re feeling daring, mid-late round. Depending on the # of teams in your league he may well be passed over, then you can grab him when you have to put a guy on the DL 10 days into the season. Happy Drafting!

  3. spence24 - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:32 PM

    I don’t know if he and ovi could play together. Their combined defence would be terrible

    • lowenni - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      Kuznetsov’s defense is not that bad…I watched him every game and coaches and Caps GM himself have said he has an underrated defensive game. Backstrom is great at defense and covers up for a lot of Ovi’s floating, but Kuznetsov isn’t necessarily a liability. If Semin and Ovi could play together, well….Either way, Kuznetsov will probably end up on the second line anyways to balance out scoring, but his defensive game shouldn’t be a worry, plus the way he, Ovi, and Backstrom could tear up defenses together would be worth it.

      • phtjoey - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        your unwavering support for your favorite team is to say the least very impressive. always a positive comment. a true fan…. i hope this team doesn’t disappoint you. personally i am very skeptical they have all the tools needed to win the SC in the next 2 or 3 years. admittedly though, they are trying to get there.

  4. vbcaps - Aug 18, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    Can’t wait for the season. I love how competitive of a league the nhl is.

  5. Skillet - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    I personally didn’t care whether Kuznetsov came over or not until he did, I took particular interest in watching him last year in the 17 or so games he played and got more amused as time went on. This guy is good and going to get better, huge skill level and I can see him a consistent 20+ goal scorer for the Caps annually.

  6. blomfeld - Aug 18, 2014 at 10:50 PM

    best of luck Kuznetsov and God speed …

    • blomfeldsux - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:18 PM

      You are so anal.

      • bethgoesglobal - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:17 AM

        What is it with you and the anus? People may start to wonder.

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