When the Washington Capitals drafted Evgeny Kuznetsov with the 26th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, they knew they were taking a risk. General Manager George McPhee has long said that the team doesn't worry about drafting Russians because of the ambassadors the Capitals have in Washington, but he admits you're always taking chance.
The past season saw Kuznetsov propel up the NHL's future watch rankings after a strong World Junior Championships and an even stronger regular season with his Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL.
As an 18-year-old playing in a men's league, Kuznetsov tallied 17 goals and 32 points in 44 while, shattering Alex Ovechkin's 13 goal, 14 assist effort in the Russian Super League. He also held his own physically and got married, showing his maturity that stretches far beyond his tender age.
For months now, people have been speculating about whether or not one of the NHL's top prospects will come over or not. Kuznetsov was said to be dropping hints about wanting to stay in Russia, but they misunderstood the Russian. Fans are worried that the fact that he's staying over an extra year in the KHL is a sign he won't make the move. This was the plan all along. He said so in his draft interview.
On May 31, Evgeny Kuznetsov signed a one-year extension. Fans also took this as a hint, when in fact they should have taken it the other way. The Russian prodigy was already on a five-year deal, expiring at the end of next season.
The new contract also expires at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. This new deal suggests Kuznetsov was lobbying hard that he was going to move to the Caps as soon as this season, but that Traktor came to him with an improved contract to try to hold on to their superstar. There is no salary cap in the KHL, so heaven knows how high that salary might have been.
In a recent interview with Andrey Osadchenko of sports.ru, Kuznetsov dropped hints like bombs that he was moving over next year. He admitted that "(he) had decided to go, but things changed." See above. He had stars in his eyes when telling Osadchenko of what he dreamed of being to accomplish at the NHL level. He said he "created myself and I play on a line with Ovechkin." Lofty expectations for the youngster, but very much reachable.
Suggestions were also drawn from sports.ru interview that Kuznetsov might even want to come to DC sooner than the projected beginning of the 2012-13 interview. "When I play, my hands even tremble. I want to go there as fast as possible," he said. How's that for quieting any doubters! Kuznetsov has long said he won't play in the AHL, but could he do what Orlov did last year and come over at the conclusion of his season?
Whatever, the case, fans need not worry. Kuznetsov's future in Washington is bright, and the organization's future is bright because of it. And he'll have no trouble fitting in with a welcoming fan-base and a great team. I mean, Kuznetsov already has friends in Washington: "Ovechkin told me that he will be helping me with the flat. I will live a couple of months at his place, then I’ll get my flat. I already surfed the internet to search the prices."
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