As the Capitals begin to prepare for the upcoming 2015-16 season, they’ll do so knowing there will not be any question as to who the number two center will be at the start of the season. Evgeny Kuznetsov is looking forward to becoming a full-time fixture of the second line. Now in his second full season with the Caps, the expectations for “Kuzy” will be at an all time high. NoVa Caps set out to take a closer look at the road Kuznetsov traveled to get to this point.
Kuznetsov grew up in the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. From the start, Evgeny never had it easy. On May 1st, 2002, when Kuznetsov was age 11, he lost his older brother in a tragic incident during the annual May Day celebrations. “It was just an unfortunate accident, you know how young wild people can be.” said Kuznetsov’s mother. Following the funeral, Kuznetsov, also known as Zenia, told his mother, “When I get older and make a lot of money, I’ll have a tournament in his honor.”
At the age of 12, the Kuznetsov family decided to move from their home in Chelyabinsk, in part to distance the family from the loss of their other son. The family ended up moving to Omsk, where Kuznetsov played for Advangard.
Kuznetsov continued to work on his game and in 2009, at the age of 18, decided to accept an offer to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for the Traktor Chelyabinsk. In the 2009-10 season he registered 8 points in 35 games. Kuznetsov, although playing against men much older with more experience, ended the season ranked 3rd in European skaters for the 2010 NHL draft.
The Capitals ended up drafting Kuznetsov 26th overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft. Kuznetsov could have gone earlier in the draft, but along with Kuznetsov came the so-called “Russian Factor,” a reference to the uncertainty regarding Russian players, who could decide to play in the KHL, rather than the NHL.
On June 3, 2011, Evgeny, at the age of 19, married his girlfriend Anastasia Zinov’yeva, in a small ceremony held at his team’s (Traktor) arena.
The following video interview is with Kuznetsov and his fiance, just prior to their wedding.
After being drafted by the Capitals in 2010, Kuznetsov set out for the KHL to further develop his game and prepare for the NHL. Kuznetsov was named to the all-star game in the 2011-12 season. On March 8th 2014 Evgeny Kuznetsov finally signed an entry-level contract with the Capitals. Kuznetsov joined the Capitals late in the 2014-2015 season, and would register his first goal against the Los Angeles Kings. The goal came late in the game with under a minute to go, to tie the game.
The following season (2014-2015) Kuznetsov was set to play a full season under Barry Trotz and a new structure. Although the start of the season wasn’t necessarily the best for Kuznetsov, the finish was. Kuznetsov started the season playing 4th line minutes and never really hit his stride until mid-February/March. The Capitals squared up against the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs, where Kuznetsov tallied the most points for the Capitals, including a game-winning goal in game seven.
On Monday, May 25, the Kuznetsov’s welcomed their first child into the world. Kuznetsov and his wife named their daughter Ecenia. “We looking for a couple names, and I tell my wife whatever you want, just tell me.”(Alex Prewitt/WaPo). Kuznetsov announced the birth of his daughter by posting the following photo to his Instagram account.
Evgeny Kuznetsov re-signed with the Capitals on July 6th, 2015. The deal will net Kuzy $3 million AAV for the next two years. At that point Kuznetsov will become a restricted free agent.