As we do every year in the weeks leading up to Capitals training camp, NoVa Caps is preparing key “player previews” for the upcoming season. Today, our previews continue with center Evgeny Kuznetsov.
2016-17 SEASON RECAP
2016-17 saw Kuznetsov’s point production drop from 77 in 2015-16 to 59. While he still managed to score 19 goals (compared to 20 the previous season), the Capitals certainly would have liked to see more from the budding superstar. With his two-year, $6 million contract expiring this summer, the Capitals inked the 25-year old former first-round pick (26th overall in 2010) to a massive eight-year, $62.4 million contract to keep him in a Capitals sweater for the foreseeable future. As with any large contract and salary cap hit ($7.8 million), there are big expectations for Kuznetsov as he enters 2017-18.
As mentioned above, Kuznetsov finished 2016-17 with 59 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 82 games played with a plus-18 rating, and finished the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 13 games played.
With the departure of second-line forward Justin Williams in free agency, Kuznetsov will be one of a few young forwards who will be expected to produce consistently on offense for the Caps. While he’s primarily played on the second-line the last few seasons, with so many changes having occurred this summer, Kuznetsov’s role in the top six may change slightly. After his 11-point decrease last season, the Capitals will be looking to Kuznetsov to return to around 70-plus points. With the likely addition of two young forwards from the Hershey Bears this season, Kuznetsov, although young himself, will need to lead by example. Entering the prime years of his career, there’s nowhere but up for Kuznetsov.
Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Top Play of 2016-17
More of this:
At one time considered the best player outside the NHL, Kuznetsov will need to consistently produce offensively and while he is a dangerous passer, he also possesses a wickedly accurate shot, which he will need to use this season to bolster the Capitals’ offense. He must also continue to utilize his amazing passing abilities, especially on the power play. After signing his huge contract, Kuznetsov will need to live up to the expectations that come with such lucrative deals.
Less of this:
While Kuznetsov is undoubtedly a gifted player, he has shown a tendency to pass the puck when he has a prime scoring opportunity. While his unselfishness is admirable, Kuznetsov’s shot is one of his best weapons and should look to shoot more this season, especially that Williams is gone. He must also reduce the numbers of turnovers he makes during games. Last season, Head Coach Barry Trotz openly criticized the young center for making costly turnovers, and he will need to have less than the 59 giveaways he had last season.
Key Goals for 2017-18:
With the aforementioned departure of Williams, and the likely infusion of two rookie forwards, Kuznetsov will be expected to carry a heavier workload this season. Despite being just 25-years old, Kuznetsov is entering his third full season in the NHL. He must also produce consistently and reduce the amount of turnovers he makes during games, as well as reward the Caps for their investment in him. In essence, Kuznetsov will need:
- to produce consistently offensively and improve his two-way game
- meet the expectations that come with signing such a large contract
- reduce the amount of turnovers made during games
- shoot more when met with prime scoring/shooting opportunities
Previous player previews:
Evgeny Kuznetsov Joins Pavel Datsyuk for Autograph Session
Contract Comparison: Evgeny Kuznetsov vs. Leon Draisaitl
Capitals Success this Season Rides on Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky
Contract Comparison: Ryan Johansen vs. Evgeny Kuznetsov
By Michael Fleetwood
SUMMER TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA
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Hope he brings back the flying celebration this year so he can look even more like an idiot when they get kicked out in second round or before.
Time for Kuzy to show he was worth the investment
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