Expectations for Evgeny Kuznetsov should be tempered, whenever he arrives with Capitals

 


Evgeny Kuznetsov, shown at Capitals development camp in 2010. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Capitals fans eagerly awaiting the anticipated arrival of Evgeny Kuznetsov were recently given a little more hope for his move to U.S. soil:

Kuznetsov was Washington’s first-round pick during the 2010 NHL draft but opted to continue playing in the Kontinental Hockey League with Traktor Chelyabinsk. The strong skater and stick handler wound up being the leading scorer for Traktor in each of the next three seasons as well as a hockey force for the U-20 World Junior Championship and in 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 that can skate as one of its top six forwards.

Kuznetsov would have to wait until the KHL regular season wraps up on 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 in which Kuznetsov rocks the red.

Even if he does play, fans should still 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.

#

GP

G

A

PTS

EV

PP

S

Total

53

1600

276

447

723

202

67

2472

Avg

30

5

8

14

4

1

47

82-game pace

82

14

23

37

10

3

127

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 to save the day.

 

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced statistics for all sports and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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