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Hopes for Kuznetsov should be tempered
2 марта 2014 года. Greenberg, Neil. The Washington Post


 Washington Capitals fans eagerly awaiting the anticipated arrival of Evgeny Kuznetsov were given a little more hope for his move to U.S. soil. On Thursday, a Russian hockey reporter tweeted a quote of Kuznetsov saying his next three home games in the Kontinental Hockey League "will be one of the last for me here. Ovi told me I'll live in his house."

Kuznetsov was Washington's first-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft but opted to continue playing in the KHL with the Russian club Traktor Chelyabinsk. The strong skater and stick handler was Traktor's leading scorer in each of the next three seasons as well as a force in the U-20 World Junior Championship as well as the Europe Trophy and IIHF World Championship tournaments.

Sure sounds like the cavalry is coming to Washington, doesn't it? Not so fast.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee told The Washington Post's Katie Carrera recently that he does not expect Kuznetsov to be in his team's lineup this regular season. In addition, Kuznetsov, 21, has had several shoulder surgeries and also suffered a leg injury in late December during a game against Donbass Donetsk, in which he needed assistance leaving the ice.

But injuries have never stopped irrational exuberance before. If healthy, Kuznetsov appears to be a piece of the puzzle Washington needs: a skilled left-handed forward who can skate on one of its top two lines.

Even if the Capitals decide to play Kuznetsov this spring, he would have to wait until the KHL regular season wraps up Tuesday before any moves can be made, and if Traktor qualifies for the postseason that could further delay his arrival. So at best we could be looking at just a handful of NHL games this season for Kuznetsov.

And when he does debut in the NHL, fans should temper their initial expectations.

Russian players who debut between the ages of 21 and 23 have not had a tremendous amount of success as rookies. As a group they have averaged 37 points over an 82-game season with the median production a meager six points. For every Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk, there is a Sergei Shirokov and Pavel Vorobiev.

If we limit the pool to the seven Russians who were also first-round picks, the average is six points in just 23 games played in their rookie year. That's not to say Kuznetsov won't be worth the wait, just that he will be taking a plane to D.C. and not riding here on a white horse. 

Страничка Евгения Кузнецова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"

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