Saturday, June 26, 2010

With the 26th pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals pick….


EVGENY KUZNETSOV! (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Meet Evgeny Kuznetsov, the latest addition to the Washington Capitals organization. A little info on Kuznetsov first:

Evgeny Kuznetsov, born May 19, 1992 in Chelyabinsk, Russia (age 18), currently plays for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL. Kuznetsov has played both centre and right wing. In his first professional season with Traktor Chelyabinsk in 2009-2010, Kuznetsov scored 2 goals and 7 assists in 35 games. He also scored 1 goal in 4 games during the KHL playoffs. Internationally, he has played for Team Russia in both the 2009 & 2010 IIHF World Under-18 Championships as well as the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships. In the 2009 U18 championships, he scored 6 goals and had 7 assists in 7 games for Team Russian, and in 2010 he had 5 goals and 7 assists in 7 games for Team Russia. In the 2010 WJC he scored 2 goals for Team Russia.

Going into the 2010 NHL Draft, Kuznetsov was ranked 3rd overall among European skaters. However, the fact that he still has a 2 year contract with his KHL team most likely drove other teams away. However, Kuznetsov is still an excellent player, and may end up being quite the steal for GMGM and the Caps at 26th overall.

Some scouting reports:

“He is fast, skillful and talented. He is also a leader on the ice, he was captain of the Russian Under-18 team and he had an excellent tournament. He is very skilled.” - Scouting report from the NHL Director of European Scouting, Goran Stubb

"A very smooth puck handler who can beat defenders one on one, Kuznetsov requires very little time or space to score goals and can do so off the rush or with his very good shot from almost anywhere in the offensive zone." - International Scouting Services 2010 NHL Draft Guide

"He really has that high-end Russian skill. I don't want to say (Ilya) Kovalchuk or (Alex) Ovechkin because that's not right, but he is that style of player.” - A scout, quoted in The Hockey News Draft Preview 2010

"Very dynamic skill level. Extremely quick, soft hands. Controls the puck like he's got it on a string and holds onto it for an extra split second, giving linemates time to cut to open ice for his decisive feeds. Superb patience around the net - outwaits goalies and always forces them to make the first move. Tremendous natural sniper who buries his chances." - Red Line Report 2010 Draft Guide

Overall, this guy sounds very good! A high-end Russian skater, good at scoring, good at passing, a leader on the ice... this is excellent. Should the Capitals have unearthed another Russian talent in the mold of Ovechkin, Semin, and Kovalchuk, the rest of the NHL should be worried. Especially if this guy will play center; I can already imagine a super-super-super talented Russian line of Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Semin.

Now for some thoughts from GMGM (sorry if the video takes awhile to load, its from the NHL Capitals team video center):

Video notes:

- GMGM hints that the Capitals are less hesitant to pick Russian players in the draft because they have Ovechkin playing in Washington; therefore, Russian players are more likely to want to come and play for the Caps. Hmmm... interesting. Hopefully this works to the Caps’ advantage over time.

- GMGM and his group were “unanimous” in their choice to draft Kuznetsov.

- “We think he can play center ice.”

- GMGM says he hasn’t ruled out Kuznetsov playing in DC next season, and he’s probably talented enough, but its probably not going to happen.

- The Caps actually considered moving up to pick Kuznetsov; that didn’t happen, but they still got their guy!

Anyway, Kuznetsov will be in DC for Capitals development camp later in July, so you can go check out our latest Russian talent then.

Let’s end with another picture.


Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

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