Photo: Jeff Vinnick
It’s been clear for awhile that Evgeny Kuznetsov has the potential to be a great player. In 2004, Dave Bidini featured a 12-year-old Kuznetsov in a documentary about Russian hockey. Once Kuznetsov joined the the KHL, he dominated with Traktor Chelyabinsk, his hometown team.
Now Kuznetsov is in the NHL. With the opportunity to center two skill forwards, and after a lot of hard work, he is finally breaking out. On Thursday he recorded the game-winning assist in the Capitals’ 3-2 win over Vancouver. He is currently averaging a point per game and has four assists in his last two games.
Early on Friday morning, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz couldn’t stop gushing about how much progress the 23-year-old has made since last season.
“It’s not even the same person,” Trotz said. “We always knew he had the skill, but his pro game – his North American game – has really come along. He’s not afraid of the big moments. He’s not afraid of the top players in the league. He wants to be one of the best guys in the game, and I think he can be.”
“He’s a sponge. He processes a lot of things. He can make a lot of things happen individually, collectively as a group. He’s getting better at every aspect of the game. He was absolutely terrible at face-offs last year. He’s getting pretty darn good now. That’s just growth. It’s exciting for coaches to see players just grow like that.”
Kuznetsov’s elevated play has allowed Trotz to build two strong scoring lines.
“It gives match-up problems for teams,” said Trotz. “It’s allowed us to bring [Backstrom] back a little slower, not having to go head-to-head (against the opponent’s top players) every night.”
“Both of those lines have been really good for us.”
And the Capitals at 5-1 are still not playing their best hockey. Scary.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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