With 12 games of the 2016-2017 season now in the books (15% of the season), Evgeny Kuznetsov has yet to find his top-level game. Is this simply an extended slow start, or is it something to really be concerned about? Is it too soon to be concerned?
Through 12 games, Kuznetsov has just one goal, but even more surprising, has only taken 18 shots for the season. By comparison, defenseman Matt Niskanen has taken more shots so far this season (19). Extrapolating the numbers, Kuzy is on a pace for 7 goals and just 123 shots for the season.
Subjectively, Kuznetsov’s game has lagged in other areas as well. On occasion his passing has seemed to lack a certain crispness, and at times, has even seemed to suffer from poor decision-making.
It’s true that being on the same line with Alex Ovechkin can reduce the offensive shot production of other players on the line, and Kuznetsov has spent his share of time on the first line, tethered to Ovechkin.
Additionally, teams are now well aware of #92, and are learning how to game-plan and prepare for Kuznetsov’s excellent offensive game.
Finally, there may be a plan (consciously or subconsciously) for Kuznetsov to start slowly this season, (and possibly even reduce his minutes), as it seemed Kuzy may have hit the proverbial wall last season, just prior to the playoffs.
Kuznetsov is in a big contract year, with its ultimate value partially dependent on this season’s production. Sources also note that Kuznetsov is very happy in Washington, and even just bought his first home in Northern Virginia. Washington is where he wants to be.
On The Clock
It’s probably too soon to be overly concerned, as Kuznetsov possess the level of talent that can rapidly rack up points. A majority of Caps Nation will likely tell you “it’s coming”. However, as the saying goes, “the hour is getting late”. The next five games will be crucial for Kuznetsov to spark his game, as the season approaches the quarter pole.
By Jon Sorensen