While the Olympic break has proven to be an unsuccessful one for Alexander Ovechkin and Russia, the Washington Capitals will be coming out of the break much happier than they left off. This is partially because none of their players have been injured during the break to date, but moreover because top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has all but said that he will be coming over to Washington sometime in March.
Kuznetsov was the Capitals’ first-round pick during the 2010 NHL Draft, and since then has been playing in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk. While many Russian players would be tough to draw stateside, Kuznetsov has repeatedly stated that he will be coming over to the NHL when his contract ends, which just so happens to be at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Fortunately the end of the 2013-14 KHL regular season comes on March 4, and with Traktor currently sitting in the last playoff spot in the league’s Eastern Conference, there is little reason to believe Kuznetsov’s KHL season will last past mid-March. And it appears that the 21-year-old does not want to wait to play in the NHL until the 2014-15 season, as in an interview this week he said he will be coming over “very soon” and just last month he posted a picture on Twitter of a U.S. Visa Application.
As if to put the icing on the cake, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said this in a recent blog post,“Perhaps we will add a young player who was a high draft pick into the lineup at some time too after the break. Time will tell.”
There is no doubting that Kuznetsov has the ability to play in the NHL right now, as his total of 61 points over the last 78 games is thoroughly impressive, and especially when you consider it came in the second best professional hockey league in the world. During his run of success over in Russia, the youngster has been compared to Evgeni Malkin, as his mix of great skating ability, composure on the puck and finishing ability has made the 21-year-old one of the best young players in the world. Suffice to say, Kuznetsov is the complete package on the ice, and his ability to slot into any of the three forward positions will offer the Capitals the mix of skill and versatility that they badly need.
Throughout the current season the Capitals have not been able to get any consistent offensive production out of anyone not named Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, and Washington has stumbled to the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference because of it. Adding Kuznetsov to the fold will bring an automatic top-six forward, who will bring a third dynamic force on the offensive end of the ice. He could be the difference as the Capitals look to snap out of their erratic play and make a deep playoff run in 2014.