If one player could be said to have stolen the limelight during Caps development camp, it must be Evgeny Kuznetsov. The first-round draft pick scored a flurry of goals in scrimmages; invoked the ire of that other RMNB crush object, Braden Holtby; met with some Russian-language students from UMD, and even gorged on some cupcakes. We wanted to pick Evgeny’s brain, but we were stifled by the language barrier.
Luckily, friend-of-the-blog and sage of all things Caps, Oksana Zolotar, helped us out. In addition to having a truly awesome name, Oksana speaks fluent Russian. We put the two kids together for a chat following Wednesday’s scrimmage (in which Evgeny went 2G-1A-3P). Follow us past the jump to hear Evgeny discuss English, his ambitions, and his always cheerful attitude.
Oksana Zolotar: What are your impressions of Washington? America in general?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Well, this isn’t my first time in America. I’ve been to America about ten times now, but it’s my first time in Washington. I haven’t been downtown yet, but other than that, I like everything, especially the atmosphere of the team.
[General Manager George McPhee says something congratulatory, but inaudible, to Evgeny. Evgeny nods politely.]
OZ: Are you having trouble with communication? The English language? How are you handling it?
EK: Yeah, I’m definitely having a lot of trouble. I don’t know the language. I know a little, so I can interact a little bit, translate, so it’s okay for now. I’m just going to study English a bit more before I make the final decision to come here, but that’s not totally up to me.
OZ: When the season’s over, do you relax a little bit in terms of training? Or keep at the same rate?
EK: This year I didn’t even have a chance to go anywhere on vacation because at the end of the season was the World Championship. I rested a little bit, a week, then I had to start training for tests before the draft. After that, I came here and trained in New York, then the draft, and then came here.
OZ: What do you think you have to work on to reach the next level? What weaknesses do you have?
EK: I have to work on everything. Mostly I have to gain weight so I can be bigger, to play in the NHL you have to be big. But other than that, I need to work on skating and shooting, and I think it will be okay.
OZ: What about next year? What goals do you have? What plans?
EK: I would be more than happy to come here if they called, of course. But I do have a contract, and I would have to buy it out then, and I don’t have the type of money to buy it out.
OZ: If you were to compare yourself to a famous player, who would it be? Why?
EK: I can’t compare myself to any famous player because he’s already been playing, already accomplished something. I can only say who I admire, who I watch. I watch Malkin, Datsyuk, how they play, and try to do the same.
OZ: What about the Russian guys that are training with you? Did you already know them? Or just meet them here?
EK: [Laughs] Yeah, of course! I’ve known them for a long time! We played together, and always talked when our teams played against each other. But yeah, we’re friends, always keep in touch.
OZ: What about the Russians here? Do you know Ovechkin?
EK: No, I haven’t met anyone. Semin played in Chelyabinsk I remember. He played when I was little.
OZ: Alright Evgeny, we all saw your wonderful photo [shows photo from draft night], tell me …are you always this happy?
EK: [Laughs] Yeah I’m always happy, I think you can even ask the guys on the team, and they’ll tell you that I’m always smiling.
OZ: Oh, I’ve seen it. Everyone’s seen it.
OZ: Alright, last question. But honestly, are you disappointed that you didn’t go to the Rangers? [Kuznetsov had said before that he’d prefer to be drafted by NYR.]
EK: Well, I just didn’t think that Washington would choose me because… I mean I’m not going to lie, of course before I wanted to. But when Washington chose me, I realized that it was even better for me because here there are Russians, fantastic coaching. I don’t want to say anything about the Rangers, I don’t have anything against them, but I like it here better, I interact with people, it’s somewhat more pleasant here.
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Extra: Bruce Boudreau’s thoughts on Kuznetsov
“Fantastic” coach Bruce Boudreau sang Kuznetsov’s praises after the scrimmage on Wednesday. In a chat with WP’s Tarik El-Bashir, Bruce also mentioned the pizazz Evgeny brings to his performance.
Finally, we’d like to thank Oksana Zolotar for her invaluable contribution. She was a total pro in these interviews, and –oh yeah– Monday is her birthday! Congratulations, Oksana! We’ll have her interviews with Dmitri Orlov and Stanislav Galiev later this week.