A huge payday awaits Evgeny Kuznetsov this summer. The Russian center morphed into a superstar last season, leading the Capitals in regular season points and participating in his first career NHL All-Star Game.
This season, Kuznetsov has an inside track to becoming the team’s first line center. Pairing the upcoming restricted free agent with his friend Alex Ovechkin — one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time — could open Kuzy up to more personal success and a bigger payday.
When Caps radio announcer John Walton asked Kuznetsov if he wanted to play with Ovi to start the season, the Chelyabinsk native said yes, but had a very thoughtful response about why it didn’t matter all that much.
The coaches have some decisions to make and what the lines are going to look like for when the regular season starts. You’ve been playing with Alex. You played with Alex on Team Russia. Would you like the opportunity to play with Alex to start the year?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Of course. You know, I would like to play with anybody in this team. Doesn’t matter with who you play – I know that all four lines have to score, have to play right things. Only team win who can roll four lines [which are like] first and second line. We need the help from the third and fourth line. That’s how The Pittsburgh win. That’s how The Chicago win. That’s how The LA win. Fourth line play good.
During the Capitals’ second-round loss to Pittsburgh last season, the series essentially came down to luck and which team’s bottom six performed better and owned the big moments. The Penguins’ bottom six did and they would go on to win the Stanley Cup, defeating San Jose in six games.
Kuznetsov and the rest of the team will get a reminder of their fate from last May when they open the 2016-17 season on October 13 in Pittsburgh. The Penguins’ are hosting their banner-rising ceremony that night. Kuznetsov didn’t seem to mind.
“I think we already forget,” Kuznetsov said. “That’s history. All you have to do is just focus the next season, the next game, and play game by game. Of course that’s a tough loss, but that’s the hockey life, you know? You can’t win every time. Sometimes you need to lose one, twice, three times maybe. But then you gear up and be stronger.”
Headline photo: Drew Hallowell
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