A number of the Capitals bloggers have warned the Capitals community to slow down and to “put the brakes on” the belief that Evgeny Kuznetsov will be a star in the NHL. I must admit that at the beginning of last season, I didn’t see the light either, or at least I wasn’t 100 percent convinced Kuzy would ever be a top-level player. The Capitals organization ultimately decided to give Kuzy on-the-job training and keep him with the Caps for the entire 2014-2015 season, rather than sending him down for work. This decision ultimately worked well. As the year progressed Kuzy began to display key ingredients essential to being a top player in the NHL. Here are three reasons why Kuzy will be a top-level player in the NHL, and, in fact, is well on his way to stardom.
1) Good ‘ol raw talent
Kuzy immediately demonstrated flashes of raw talent in the 2013-2014 season, his first year with the Capitals. A good example came in a game against Vancouver, in which he fed Tom Wilson for a rare Wilson goal. Kuzy’s fake-shot pass across the seam through significant traffic to Tom Wilson for a goal showed me that Kuzy has the raw instincts and ice awareness of a top-level player. The following link is to the Capitals video of the play, which includes a great breakdown of the play by “Locker”.
2) Starting to become a leader on the ice
A more recent example came this postseason in game 5 against the Islanders. Prior to a faceoff (won by Kuznetsov), Kuzy went to each of his teammates to layout a plan for the play. “I’ll be behind the net”. The following video includes Kuzy mic’d up before the faceoff. What is not included in the video is the previous discussions he had with each and every Capitals player on the ice. The results, as they say, were “just how they drew it up”.
3) NHL-level patience and composure
The third example came in game 7 against the Islanders. Kuzy showed great skating moves by shaking loose Johnny Boychuck with one fake move (often overlooked on this play). The move freed up Kuzy to move across the seam with the puck. Initially Halak and the Islanders had potential shots covered, but Kuzy calmly moved across the crease, waiting, waiting, waiting for his best shot, which finally came at last possible moment, when his angle to the net was extreme.
The 2014-2015 season turned me from doubter to a true believer in Evgeny Kuznetsov, and I’m convinced the self-proclaimed experts will soon see the light as well.
What do you think about Kuzy’s potential?