Evgeny Kuznetsov had a breakout season last year, proving to the entire league that he is a topline forward, even on a team stacked with all-star talent like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Kuznetsov is also likely the franchise’s only shot, right now, at replacing Ovechkin when the time comes.
And although he showcased some phenomenal numbers last season, with 83 regular-season points (27G, 56A) and doubled his power-play points from the 2016-17 season, the playoffs is where Kuznetsov really stood out.
In 24 playoff games last season, Evgeny had an incredible 32 points (12G, 20A), more than any other Capitals player, which put him into 20th place for the all-time most points in one playoff season, according to QuantHockey. And just to give you an idea of how hard that is, the guys below him now include Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.
On paper, Kuznetsov has all the qualities necessary for a top-tier forward in today’s NHL. He’s fast, agile, has silky smooth hands, a quick release and a clever mind.
If there is one area that Kuznetsov might be able to improve, it’s confidence. Confidence to shoot more, confidence to be a leader amongst the younger players, as well as the older veterans, and confidence that he is one of the best in the league.
That type of confidence is typically learned from years of experience, a resistance to harsh criticism and ability to find your way out of some serious slumps. Something Kuzy can absolutely learn from Alex Ovechkin. A man who has carried this city on his back through incredible criticism and skepticism. Along the way we have seen Alex develop into a (mostly) well-rounded player, that knows how to lead by example and project the confidence his team needs.
Confidence will help Kuznetsov take his game to the next level this season, because when players are confident, they are more consistent, have better flow with the puck and take more shots. This season Evgeny Kusnetsov needs to learn as much as he can from his captain and the team’s leadership group, so he’s ready to fill those skates one day.
By Charlie DiPasquale