Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prospect Watch: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov drives to the net in the WJC Gold Medal game.
Welcome to a new feature of Caps 'Round the Clock, Prospect Watch.  About every two weeks, or when a Capitals prospect does something noticeable, I will post to introduce you to him and give you some background and his expected arrival with the Caps.
This week, I start off with Evgeny Kuznetsov, one of the Capitals' best young prospects who is currently playing in Russia for Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, which is their top professional hockey league.  The young Russian was drafted in the first round, 26th overall, by the Capitals in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Kuznetsov was initially expected to be drafted much higher than that, as he was ranked best among non North American skaters in the draft by skill.  However, questions about his signability with an NHL franchise surfaced, so he dropped to late until the first round for the Capitals to scoop up.  It appears right now that the fifteen teams that passed on him outside the top 10 may have made a mistake, as the 18-year old forward is lighting up the Russian league to the tune of 16 goals and 28 points in 41 games, including three short handed goals and two game winners.
Profile: Kuznetsov possesses a skill set not unlike Alexander Semin: he is a gifted offensive player with elite speed, soft hands, and an exceptional shot. However, it is his hockey sense and vision that have him pegged as such an elite prospect.  Kuznetsov is a pure forward who can play any position on an attacking line, although he has been used primarily as a right winger for Traktor this season.  Despite his many offensive tools, however, Kuznetsov is thin and wiry, and will need to bulk up to successfully adapt to the more physical North American brand of hockey.  He also is not a particularly strong positional player as he tends to wander in both zones, but both of these problems can be fixed quickly by a fitness regimen and good coaching.
Career Notes: Kuznetsov broke into the KHL last season with Traktor, his hometown team, and totaled 9 points in 35 games for them before he was drafted by the Capitals.  He has represented his country in international play four times: twice at the World U18 Championships and twice at the World Junior Championships (U20).  He won a silver medal with the Red Army at the 2009 U18 tournament, and then won the gold medal at the 2011 World Juniors, where he almost single-handedly kept Russia's tournament alive in their final round robin game by scoring a goal and setting up another within the final two minutes.  He finished tournament play tied for second in scoring, tallying 4 goals and 11 points in 7 games.  This season, in addition to his scoring prowess in the KHL, he was selected to the All-Star game.
ETA: 2012.  There are still questions about where Kuznetsov will play next season, as even though his contract with Traktor is up, his stock is rising fast with KHL executives because of how good he is and how well he has played at the last two World Juniors.  It will take a lot of money to get him to leave Russia, but he will be with the Caps when he wants to come to America.  He is that good.        

Information from WashingtonCaps.com and The Scouting Report was used in this post.                   


  1. He is not going to play in AHL. He can easily play on our top 2 lines now. He dominated WJC tournament against kids from Canada and USA who are already in NHL. He is playing in the second best league in the world right now. Also at his age he has already scored more goals in KHL then ready for the list of names: Ovechkin, Malkin, Bure. Only one who scored more was Cherepanov. This type of Elite Talent does not come to the league and start in the Minors. Its like Sending Stamkos, Tavares, Taylor Hall, Seguin to AHL. Their talent level is way above what AHL can offer and will only stagnate their growth. This kid has way more talent then MJ90 and won't take him long to adjust to NHL. The only issue will come if he is able to get out from this contract this year.

  2. while I understand that kuznetsov is elite, like I said here, very few players are able to jump right into the NHL and be superstars the way ovechkin, malkin, and crosby did. you will notice that stamkos was not good his first season in the NHL, nor is seguin, or hall, or any of the guys you mentioned. is he elite? yes. will he be a top liner? yes. but he is not ovechkin and he is not crosby. signing problem or not, if he was, he would have been taken much higher. plus, he is still under contract in russia like you said. it's a tough call, and I hope you are right, but he needs to learn the american game first. I'm not saying this because of talent, I am saying it because of all the wild cards there are in russian players. look at a guy like nikita filatov...all the talent in the world, lit up the KHL last year, has been a healthy scratch over half his games in the NHL this year because he needs to adapt...it's never a question of talent

  3. World Juniors has always been a good indicator of what type of prospect you have. You go back through the past 6 years and look at the top players at World Juniors and nearly all of the names are now household names in NHL. Just look at the last years World Juniors and Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jordan Eberle, John Carlson are all in the NHL and adjusting to the game quit well. And remember Kuznetsov stood out as an underage player as he has 1 more year of eligibility left. All I am saying I think you are short changing of how Elite Kuznetsov really is. He was graded as a Top 10 prospect by Multiple Scouts before the draft and fell because of the Russian factor. If there was a re-draft held today he is easily in a discussion for a top 3 Pick with Seguin, Hall, Fowler. As far as Filatov is concerned he underperformed majorly in his last WJC when he was a team captain so the signs were already there. He is also an extremely one dimensional player who plays one position and his vision was questioned during the draft. Kuznetsov played PP,PK and was also one of the best defensive forwards for Russia in the Gold Medal game. He can play all 3 positions and has an ability to not only be a play maker but also an elite goal scorer. I believe Belusov his current coach at Traktor who also happened to be Malkin's Coach when he was playing in the KHL has said that Kuznetsov's game is identical to what Malkin had at that age. Bottom line this kid has all the signs of a truly a special player. Keep in mind Training Camp starts in September 9 months is a lifetime for someone his age.

  4. I sure hope you are right...that he can be that much better than he was drafted, because god knows the capitals need it. him and ovechkin would be scary (providing ovie finds his form). And I did say that he was a top prospect on skill but fell because of the russian factor. I figured "short changing" him would be better than overselling him, you know? lol I just dont want to sell him as some savior and have him come over and not be. I appreciate your feedback as well, always good to talk to someone who knows the game.

  5. I certainly understand where you coming from. But there is just so much to like about this kid and he is just getting better and better with each month. Since World Juniors he has 7g 7a in 10 games. He was given more responsibility with Traktor since Belusov took over and now playing consistently 18 min a game which is huge for his development. I like blogs like yours that look deeper in the future so you can see the bigger picture beyond day to day stuff. Thanks!

  6. Ryan I must say I disagree with something you said in the first comment. You said that Kuznetsov has way more talent than MJ90. You cannot compare the two guy as they are completely different players. Kuznetsov is like Ovechkin, he's skilled, fast; a sniper. MJ is much more of a defensive player, does everything right. Essentially, he's the kind of player you want to build around. There is a reason he captained Team Sweden at the WJC. He's a lot more mature. No doubt, Kuzya has skill, and he's outrageously good, however. I think we can look forward to MJ90 centering the second line with Kuzya to his right. Kuznetsov will be an 80 point guy, MJ will be a 60 point guy I think, but Johansson will be the first guy out on the PK and Kuzya will be the first guy out on the PP.

  7. After Kuznetsov's performances at the passed two WJC, there is zero doubt that he will be in the NHL whenever he chooses.