And then, there was Kuzya.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was the first selection by the Washington Capitals in the 2010 draft and is also the first of three Capitals' prospects listed among the Top 100 NHL Prospects by Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus. Kuznetsov checked in at No. 4, with Filip Forsberg at No. 10 and Stanislav Galiev at No. 29.
But with Forsberg having been dealt to the Nashville Predators in a trade deadline move to acquire Martin Erat and Stanislav Galiev still adjusting to professional hockey, Kuznetsov stands alone at the top of the Capitals' system, the lone precious gem among a pile of lesser rocks.
So far, Kuznetsov has shone at every level.
In 20 games at the U-20 World Junior Championships with Russia, the native of Chelyabinsk scored 12 goals with 14 assists for 26 points, with 18 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating.
This includes 13 points in two games at the 2011-12 WJC: nine points came in a 14-0 shellacking of Latvia; four points came against Canada in a wild 6-5 win in the semifinals. Kuznetsov recorded a hat trick in both games, as recapped by The Washington Post.
Kuznetsov has played for Russia at the World Championships, as well. At the 2012 and 2013 World Championships, Kuznetsov totaled three goals and four assists for seven points in 13 games, with six penalty minutes and a plus-four rating.
Professionally, Kuzya has held his own. In 179 games in the KHL, he has scored 57 goals with 68 assists for 125 points, with 112 penalty minutes and a plus-five rating. Kuznetsov has averaged 0.51 points per game in 41 playoff games in the KHL. During the 2012-13 season, Kuznetsov finished sixth in the league with 44 points, per KHL.com.
But with Kuznetsov, the question has never been: Will he perform? The question with Kuznetsov has always been: Will he play in the NHL?
The phenom once again answered this question in a May 6 interview with Mikhail Zislis of Sport-Express (translation via Fedor Fedin of Russian Machine Never Breaks)
I keep up with the people from the Capitals, talk to them friendly over the phone. Nothing new has happened in regards to that. They invited me to visit and talk. They know my plans well. I have decided for myself to spend the next year in Russia and then go to the NHL. Why should I rush?
Two weeks later, Capitals general manager George McPhee reaffirmed that statement as best he could to Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington:
He’s finished the first year of a two-year deal. Maybe we’ll see him after his [2013-14] season’s over. … I’m not sure how that’s going to go. There will be some discussions next year. But that’s our understanding, yes, that he intends to play here.
Capitals fans are hoping that three years from now, when it comes time for another update on Washington's 2010 draft class, Evgeny Kuznetsov has indeed decided to "play here."