Photo: Patrick Smith
In an NHL.com interview hyping the World Cup Of Hockey, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who leads the Capitals with 26 points, was asked by Vassili Ossipov about his transition from the KHL to the NHL. Kuznetsov had struggled until he found his stride after last season’s all-star break. In a recent interview with Pierre McGuire, Braden Holtby called Kuznetsov the team’s best player during last year’s playoff.
So what was the thing that clicked for Kuznetsov?
Here’s Kuznetsov, via NHL.com:
Hockey in this league is much more physical, and players are much bigger and stronger. The game here is based on strong forechecking and winning one-on-one battles on both sides of the ice. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to this style because nobody taught me about it before. I grew up playing a totally different style of hockey. At first, I didn’t quite understand why I should be doing this but, little by little, I got a grip on it. Constant pressure and forechecking weaken the other team and, sooner or later, you will get scoring chances. Often, I feel it myself as well. When your opponents play physical hockey, by the third period you get extremely winded and can barely move your feet. That’s when good conditioning comes into play.
During the offseason, Kuznetsov was relentless with his workouts, staying in the United States and showing up at Kettler nearly everyday. According to Kuznetsov, that had a profound impact on his body.
The birth of my daughter six months ago changed my whole offseason. But on a serious note, I tried to do as much strength and conditioning training as I could. I ran a lot in the summer. My first priority was to shed some weight, but not lose any strength. I think I achieved this goal. I lost 10 pounds and now I am feeling fresher and stronger (he is listed at 192 pounds). It also helps me to recuperate faster, which is very important during the grueling regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While Kuznetsov’s natural talent for the game has always been evident, it’s his own hard work and the minimizing of bad habits that have taken his performance to the next level.
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