There is a Russian playing for the Washington Capitals who has had ‘superstar’ written all over him since his first day with the team. No, not that guy – the other one.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s eye for the goal and his tenacity on the ice has led him to a team-leading 26 points so far this season, and that’s four points more than his countryman Alex Ovechkin. To put it in simple terms: Kuzy is on fire.
Through 80 games last season, the 23-year-old center recorded 37 points, including 11 goals. This term, he’s on pace to clock up close to 100 points.
It’s not Kuznetsov’s shooting or hitting ability that is stirring up fear in his opponents (the Caps have Ovechkin for that), it’s his movement on the ice. He skates so well, he sometimes looks like his feet aren’t even moving.
— Capitals Goalies (@CapsGoalies) November 26, 2015
“He’s creating so much movement that it’s hard to sort out,” coach Barry Trotz said recently. “It just creates a lot of havoc and then it opens up seams and it opened up plays.”
Top-Line Ice Time for Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov’s current season’s bedazzle was a follow-on from his playoff performances earlier this year when he tallied seven points during the Caps’ post-season run to Game 7 of the Conference semi-finals.
In addition, with Washington’s first-line center Nicklas Backstrom on the sidelines to start this season, Kuznetsov helmed the top line for 16 games. Kuzy jumped at the chance to line up alongside Ovechkin to begin this season, and that’s why both Russians sit at number one and number two on the team’s scoring chart.
The Capitals just concluded a run of seven games in just 11 days, going 6-1-0 over that time period. Two things predominantly created those victories: Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby.
Kuzy recorded three multipoint games over his last five appearances, while Holtby is becoming a superstar in his own right. The frequently modest and understated Caps’ goalie put it this way in a recent interview with NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire: “He [Kuznetsov] has the ability to be a top-five player in this league. With the amount of poise, skill, and commitment to getting better [he has], it’s amazing to watch him every day.” Take a look at the video:
Trotz recognizes that he is coaching a future superstar.
“He’s not afraid of the big moments,” said Trotz in October – before Kuzy really got started. “He’s not afraid of the top players in the league. He wants to be one of the best guys in the game, and I think he can be.”
So, with arguably the best player in the world (Ovechkin) and arguably the best player in the world by 2020 (Kuznetsov), the Capitals are in a good position. It’s just a matter of time before both Russians get their hands on the Stanley Cup.