Evgeny Kuznetsov is delivering this season, even to the points that Capitals head coach Barry Trotz recently declared that he may become one of the league’s top players. The Chelyabinsk, Russia, native, had a strong start of the 15-16 campaign, and things are doing very well for the Capitals. With the chance to be first line center, playing side-to-side with two great wingers in Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, Kuznetsov has probably finally became what the Caps were hoping when they picked him with the 26th overall pick in 2010. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website Championat.com, Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov talked about playing with Ovechkin and Oshie, his feelings to play in Canada, and the nickname “Harry Potter”.
* For the original Championat.com article by Alexander Govorov click here.
Note: the interview was taken before Washington’s game against the Oilers, where Kuznetsov recorded a hat trick.
– You play on a line with Alexander Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. You already knew Ovechkin, how is it doing with Oshie?
– Very well! The first thing I want to say is that he is a great person. We quickly found mutual understanding and we understand the way we play. We talk a lot. When he doesn’t manage to score, he is very upset. Through these emotions we become a better team and support each other. We never argue. The most important thing for the Capitals is the team spirit.
– A few days ago you played in Vancouver, where Pavel Bure played for long time. Was he your idol?
– I think that Pavel was the idol of all modern Russian hockey players. Frankly speaking, I really like playing in Canada a lot. Here [in Canada] people are more similar to Russians, if compared to America. Cities aren’t much different, I like playing here [in Canada]. Of course at home, in Washington, there is a better atmosphere, but it’s always nice to play away games in Canada, here people really love hockey. If you play well, the crowd will applaud you, even if you play against their team.
– What is your favorite Canadian city?
– Vancouver is a beautiful city! I also like Edmonton, especially because Jason Chimera was born there (laughs). But to speak the truth, I feel great in any Canadian city.
– In one of the past interviews you said that you should play as you were in the NHL for five or six seasons.
– I think that I should have more expectations on me, I’m not a rookie anymore in the NHL and I also want to be more demanding from myself. There is no limit in progressing, and I want to get better day after day. When you play with such partners on ice, it’s not you who make them better, it’s the other way around. I think that we compensate well each other.
– Do you feel more responsibility playing on the first line?
– I feel more like it’s a new challenge for me. You have to give back for the trust and not to do mistakes you did earlier. You have to create more scoring chances and be more useful and valuable for your team. Many players get a chance, but only a few manage to get the best out of it.
– Next year in Toronto will be held the World Cup of Hockey. What does it mean to you?
– It was very tough to swallow not to get on the roster for the Sochi Olympics. I had many injuries and also didn’t play well. Playing at the World Cup is the next goal for me. Everyone wants to play for his home country. What competition isn’t important, be it the World Cup, the World Championship or the Euro Hockey Tour. When you play for your country it’s always huge emotions. Being able to represent Russia on the international stage it’s an honor. It’s not important if you’re injured or not, you just have to go and play. Playing for the national team is very important for Russians, therefore you have to do whatever you can. Playing for Russia is the dream of any [Russian] man. We’re one of the top hockey nations. Unfortunately something happened during the 90s and the 00s. Now we need to get back to our past heights.
– Do you like being nicknamed Harry Potter?
– Yes, my teammates invented this nickname when I throw my stick around during practices like magic wands in that movie (laughs). I don’t feel anything bad about it. They’re good guys, I don’t see anything wrong.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso