Photo credit: Elena Rusko, Russian Hockey Federation
Evgeny Kuznetsov was back on the ice this weekend. After successfully rehabbing from shoulder surgery, one of Russia’s most gifted young players was called up to the National Team to play in the annual Four Nations Tournament, which was held in Podolsk, about an hour outside of Moscow. Kuznetsov was also awarded the “C” on his jersey, as Blues’ top prospect Vladimir Tarasenko has graduated from the Under-20 team.In the first game, Russia beat the Czech Republic, 2-1, and Kuznetsov didn’t total any points. He did, however, make his presence known throughout the game.
In game two, Russia smashed Finland, who sent their B squad on the ice, 11-4. Kuznetsov scored two goals and was named the team’s player of the game. Surprisingly, he also was also involved in a pushing and shoving match with Micke-Max Asten late in the game, which resulted in both players receiving double minors for roughing.
Kuznetsov’s goals are at 0:27 and 2:55 marks:
In the third game, Kuznetsov was held without a point as Russia grinded out a win against Sweden, 3-2, in overtime, and won the tournament. But even then, Kuznetsov proved to be a very important player who was not afraid to shoot when the game was on the line late in the third.
Sportbox.ru gave the fans a chance to send their questions to Kuznetsov.
Q: When did you understand you’ve become a star of Russian hockey? (by MORGAN09)
A: I haven’t become a star yet. Some just overreact [laughs]. Really, I still have to play a lot to get to that level.
Q: Many say you have a star fever. What can you say to those fans? (by henderson)
A: I don’t have any kind of star fever! Those who say that may just be jealous. People who know me well know that I’d never reject if somebody asks me for something and I will always say hi to everybody. So there’s no conceit for sure.
Q: How do you feel about your personal fans? (by Lana-888)
A: Positively! Every hockey player plays for the fans and I appreciate their attention. I try not to refuse when they ask me about a photo or a signature.
Q: Are you planning to go to North American and when? (by Alex_17_94)
A: I want to try myself in the NHL. It’s tough to say about timing. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in three years, or one year. It all depends on how I will feel at the time.
Q: If you’ll accept an offer from America, will it be only the Capitals? (by Filat007)
A: Yes, of course! I’m drafted by them and don’t see any other options in the NHL. Great team which can contend for the Stanley Cup, good management. People there gave me a warm welcome and if everything will be okay, I’ll fight for Washington as hard as for my native Traktor.
Q: Do you want to participate in the creation of an all Russian line in Washington? (by gebting)
A: Of course! Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin are great people. They are the examples for me. I’d like to play on the same line with them, but that’s not the key. I’ve got to play on any line and with every shift prove that I deserve a spot on this squad.
Q: Do you want to move to a better KHL team? (by VycheslavBykov)
A: I think that Traktor isn’t a weak club. We have a pretty good chance to go far in the playoffs. We have a great team which is able to accomplish some serious goals. I only think about Chelyabinsk right now!
Q: Do you follow other sports? Do you have favorite teams? (by baabiv)
A: Yes, I follow soccer from time to time. I like Barcelona’s still but still like Real Madrid more. Can’t say anything about Russian championship. Compared to the leading European leagues, our clubs, to put it mildly, have a lot of room to grow.
Q: After playing with the National team, what is it to be back to the junior team? Do you have a motivation to play on 2012 WJC in Canada? (by Dima_zzz)
A: Of course I want to make the WJC team again this year, win WJC again, but I don’t want to make statements now because I have a KHL regular season with Traktor ahead of me. I need to earn a spot in Team Russia with my game because coaches won’t call anybody just for their past achievements.
Q: Were you able to talk to [new Team Russia coach] Zinetula Bilyaletdinov while he was in Chelyabinsk? (by Power-BE)
A: Yes, we met, chatted for a little bit, but I’d like to keep the point of conversation in secret. That’s personal.
Q: Is a Sochi Olympic goal medal your number one dream? (by Freedom-11)
A: It’s more a goal than a dream. I want to make the Olympic team and will do everything possible to hit the ice in Sochi.
Q: Describe yourself in three words. (by Manacha)
A: It’s very difficult! I don’t like to talk about myself, let others talk about the hockey player Kuznetsov.
Q: How did you suggest an idea to marry on Traktor Arena? (by Natalie912)
A: Actually, that wasn’t my idea. In the registry office they offered me and my wife to hold an official ceremony on the ice, we didn’t refuse. I think that was a pretty original idea.
Interview by Svyatozar Ivanov.
BONUS! Traktor coach Valery Belousov talks about Kuznetsov with Sport-Express:
Q: What was the last time your player surprised you?
A: Young Kuzya. He gets better and better! He always creates something new! He was notable before but has been amazing last year. He had a nagging shoulder injury but everything is okay now. Thank God we were able to persuade him to stay in Russia for one more year. He agreed.
Q: You created a special regimen for Alexei Cherepanov. What about Kuznetsov?
A: Kuznetsov is currently preparing in completely individual program. Cherepanov had regimen problem; as soon as weather was warm he was yearning to party. He didn’t drink, but liked other things — cars, girls. I gave him a 11pm curfew. It’s much easier with Kuznetsov.
A: He just married. So I have one less headache now.
Interview by Yuri Golyshak.