Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was a first-round draft pick (26th overall in 2010) for a reason…..his 2015-16 NHL campaign is a perfect example why. In 48 games this season, Kuznetsov has 51 points (15 goals, 36 assists), and leads the Capitals in scoring and is on pace for a career-high 26 goals, 62 assists, and 88 points.
Kuznetsov would be the first player not named Alex Ovechkin to lead the Capitals in scoring since 2003-04 (Nicklas Backstrom tied with Ovechkin in points (79) in 2013-14, however Ovechkin officially led due to having more goals). What should be frightening to the Capitals’ opponents is that Kuznetsov is just 23-years old and hasn’t even reached the prime of his career.
Kuznetsov’s potential has always been apparent, even when he played in Russia; he was long considered the “best player not in the NHL”. And his rise began around the Stanley Cup playoffs last year, when he scored a series-clinching goal versus the New York Islanders in the first-round.
Kuznetsov has the ability to pass the puck from unbelievable angles and his ability to read plays and draw plays in his mind before they happen is jaw dropping. Kuznetsov also possesses supreme puck-handling skills, which has earned him the nickname Harry Potter from his head coach, Barry Trotz, and his teammates. In his short time in DC, Kuznetsov has already adapted well to American culture and spent the entire offseason in Washington, exploring the monuments and area. His English, though thickly-accented, has come a long way from his first several months in America. Kuzy has earned the right to be considered one of the cornerstones of the Capitals’ future.
Whatever happens to Kuznetsov in his career, it can be nothing but greatness. The ceiling for him can only go up, and for opponents, that should be scary. The future looks good for him indeed.
By Michael Fleetwood