We feel pretty good about Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Capitals’ first-round draft pick. Why?
Well, first of all, George McPhee gave us the wink.
Here’s what we know: Evgeny Kuznetsov played with KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk and broke onto their roster at 17 years old, notching 2G, 6A, -6 in the regular season, and 4GP, 1G, 0A, +1 in the playoffs. His last name means “[son of] a blacksmith”.
When asked a few months before the draft, Evgeny said he wanted to be drafted by the Rangers, but his attitude since draft day has been effusively positive. Fans call him the “Malkin of Chelyabinsk”; scouts say he’s reminiscent of Alex Semin. This writer sees this physical, two-way player– comfortable at both center and left wing– and thinks he may best fit Brooks Laich’s mold.
Here’s what Kuznetsov said after the draft.
On getting drafted by the Caps:
I wanted to be drafted by a good team, and I wanted it to be a team with Russians.
I want to play for the Capitals as soon as possible, but I understand that I may not been ready yet. I wasn’t very nervous about the draft, because I knew my pick number isn’t up to me.
[When McPhee called my name I felt] tired. I was very glad I didn’t have to go the next day.
The last name on draft jerseys is velcro. It doesn’t matter that it was not my name. The main thing is that I was chosen.
I’m happy Caps choosed one more Russian! Stas is a great guy and he’s my comrade.
On his awesome photo shoot:
[The photo shoot] was very, very quick. In Russia, people usually make fun of photo shoots, but this wasn’t like that. I could joke and, who knows, someone might not get the right idea about me.
On that photo, I was to pop out behind the curtain and show some look on my face. I did it, and it was published right away. Good photo, I’ll keep it for my whole life!
And the immediate future:
There are some options in my contract with Traktor. Too early to say about them.
There are two years left on Kuznetsov’s contract, which means that he may have to buy out some or all of that remaining time. In any case, it’s likely we’ll see Kuznetsov in the area before too long.
For those of you who can’t wait until Development Camp to get your first taste of “The Blacksmith,” here is video of a few of Kuznetsov’s more celebrated goals. First, check out this goal (via sportbox.ru) where Evgeny scored a GWG with his powerful slapshot. It was considered among the best goals in the KHL that week. (And yes, we totally dig the Ovechkin leap into the boards!)
Next, if you hit play on the above YouTube, you can view Evgeny’s first goal of his KHL career. Please note the nod to Alex Semin where Kuznetsov sells forehand and goes backhand on this semi-breakaway.
If you love terrible defense, then this next clip is for you. In a game against Austria in the U18 World Junior Championships, Kuznetsov uses his blazing speed to zoom past the defender and break in alone on goal. How does this man finish? The only way he knows how: Forehand. Backhand. Celebrate.
Finally, Kuznetsov shows that he has a sweet wrist shot, too. Watch above as he fires this wicked dart from no angle past that poor, poor Austrian goaltender.
The Caps Go Red
Evgeny Kuznetsov is only the latest in the Capitals long history with Russian draft picks. Since 1984, Washington has drafted 25 Russian born players.
* Dmitri Khristich and Andri Sidorov are Ukrainians. They were citizens when they got drafted.
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