Rising Stars: Evgeny Kuznetsov ready to step up for the Washington Capitals in 2014

Back in March, Washington Capitals fans saw the team show some ambition and direction when top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov finally made his long-anticipated NHL debut. Kuznetsov was drafted 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, then played for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL for four seasons. After his team failed to make the playoffs this year, he headed to Washington to join the Capitals.

Kuznetsov only played 17 games over the course of two months, but he showed the Caps a glimpse of what he's capable of. During his 229 minutes of ice time, he scored three goals and racked up six assists. He collected four points after his fourth game; his highlight coming during his third NHL game when he had a three-point performance against the Vancouver Canucks.


His first goal was during the last 42 seconds of regulation against the LA Kings to help the Capitals tie the game for a much-needed point during the Eastern Conference playoff race.


In his first shootout attempt, he scored against Jonathan Quick.


Kuznetsov is even able to score from sharp angles from both sides of the net.



No, three goals and nine points isn't that much in 17 games, but Kuznetsov was not suited for his position. It isn't easy getting thrown into the bottom line - which he was after entering the NHL as a rookie late into the season.

During the season before he entered the NHL, he led his KHL team in goals and assists. He tallied 44 points from 19 goals and 25 assists in 51 games, which was 13 points more than any other player on the team. Over the past five seasons in the KHL, he accumulated 65 goals and 81 assists in over 200 career games.


It's evident that Kuznetsov is extremely poised with the puck. If you add his ridiculous speed and his keen vision for making plays to his unbelievable puck-handling abilities, then this young Russian has the ability to score on opposing teams and create numerous scoring opportunities for his Capitals teammates.

At the moment, Kuznetsov is second-line center for the Capitals. That can be either good or bad, considering the fact that most players who play that position don't last long. They either do well but then leave, like Sergei Fedorov and Mike Riberio, or are inconsistent, like Mathieu Perreault and Tomas Fleischmann. It's a difficult position to be Nicklas Backstrom's understudy, but I think that Kuznetsov can do it with help and practice.

Kuznetsov is clearly an offensive player who lacks some skills in the defensive department (the team had 3.2% more shots whenever he wasn't on the ice) , but after working with the team more and with the help of his teammates, like Alex Ovechkin, he should be able to develop even more as a player.

If Kuznetsov bulked up, conditioned and added more muscle to his frame, he would maximize his potential and be able to play with anyone in the league next season. Based on his 2013, he seemed to get worn down quickly and wasn't able to keep up at the NHL level during extended time on the ice.

Kuznetsov has an impressive resume already - a two-time KHL All-Star in the 2011-12 season and the 2012-13 season, he also helped Team Russia win the gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

This 22 year old could give the Capitals the push that they need in order to go beyond their "average" description...and with his creative moves, he might have a real chance at winning the Calder Trophy next season.

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