The Washington Capitals are in a comfortable position, leading the NHL in points (74) and wins (35) despite having less games played than many other teams. However, with all this success going on, people seem to have overlooked their new shining All-Star, Evegeny Kuznetsov.
The passion of the young Russian brought him to the NHL. As a kid, he would think of hockey all day and tried to get on the ice as often as he could. At the age of 14, he finally got to use a computer for the first time and would spend numerous hours with friends watching Youtube videos of Russian Superstars such as Ilya Kovalchuk, current teammate Alex Ovechkin and his favourite, Alexei Kovalev. He would go out on the ice and try to imitate them.
He spent 5 seasons in the KHL, where he was taught to never dump the puck in. For him, it was an easy decision to come play in the NHL: A start to his career and playing with Alex Ovechkin. One thing that wasn’t so easy for him was the style of play. KHL and NHL are different in many aspects. When he finally transitioned to the NHL, it was a huge change in his playing style, Kuznetsov says he did not really understand the concept of dumping the puck in and feared he would be benched if he did it, because in the KHL, they carry the puck in and look for a passing option, the perfect play. However, it is safe to say he learned the system fairly quickly, as he is now playing like an All-star for the Capitals.
The 23-year-old is in his 3rd NHL season and has already set new career highs in points (51), goals (15) and assists (36) with 34 games remaining. His puck possession stats are outstanding, Kuznetsov’s CF% (Corsi for) is sitting at 51.3%; in simple terms, this means when Kuznetsov is on the ice, his team controls the puck more than 50% of the time, which is very good considering the Washington Capitals CF is under 50% according to NHL.com. In this video, his puck possession and poise are on display.
He is currently ranked 5th in points in the NHL behind only Erik Karlsson, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane. Things are only getting better for Kuznetsov. As a young player, he goes to players like Brooks Orpik or even Justin Williams, guys with playoff experience, to learn from them.
The passion and drive to win is there for not only Kuznetsov, but the entire Capitals squad. They are the team to beat this season.
Brandon Murphy – @2murphy8