Despite being sidelined for the most of the summer recovering from shoulder surgery, Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a great start to the KHL regular season. He’s tallied three goals on the year, most recently the game-winner in Traktor’s 5-2 victory over Torpedo, and has also scored two shootout goals which both pushed the White Bears to victory.
Traktor Head Coach Valery Belousov has brought Kuznetsov along slowly in the first couple of games, burying him on the third line and also limiting his minutes. That has not stopped the 19-year-old forward from being one of the most productive players on the team. He ranks second on the team overall in both goals and shots (25).
Sport-Express’s Alexey Shvetsov caught up with Kuzya after Wednesday’s game and the two discussed Traktor’s “disappointing” start to the regular season, the Lokomotiv tragedy, and Evgeny’s timetable on playing in Washington. RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation below the jump.
Not For Me To Judge The Team
Alexey Shvetsov: This was the first time this season you played on the first line. How did it feel?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Such trust allowed me to relax. I am very thankful to the coach for putting me on the first line.
Alexey Shvetsov: What can you say about Traktor’s start this season? Following a high-powered transfer campaign, it has already been called a disappointment.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I can not judge the team. I think we will achieve our objectives. But so far, we play well in one game, so-so the next one, and totally fall apart in the third. As soon as we achieve some stability, things will get better.
Alexey Shvetsov: You looked pretty good in Nizhny Novgorod.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: You can’t come back from a road trip with no points. After the very unpleasant defeat in St Petersburg, we made some adjustments, which led to the victory.
Alexey Shvetsov: In almost every game you lead your team in shots on goal, at least five in every game. To paraphrase a classic soccer quote – I shot, I shoot, I will always shoot? (original by the great Zenit SpB striker Alexander Kerzhakov – “бил, бью и буду бить.”)
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes, it is true. Every forward should try to finish the attack by shooting the puck. Andrey Nazarov, who gave me a chance to play for Traktor when I was 17-years-old told me: the more you shoot, the more goals you score. And fewer chances for turnovers, for counterattacks. I try to follow this rule.
I Don’t Want To Go To Washington Yet
Alexey Shvetsov: Every season you get more and more ice time. This year you average about 18 minutes per game. Is it hard to play so much at your age or do you feel you are ready for more?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I can play more. I am gradually returning to form following my injury, feeling better and better. The main thing is not to stop. For now I just need to concentrate on hockey. I know that a lot is expected of our team, we have to meet the expectations.
Alexey Shvetsov: Are you strongly influenced by the press and by the pubic opinion?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: No, not much. But now, when the situation is not very good for our team, I must concentrate on nothing but hockey.
Alexey Shvetsov: You have a lot of responsibilities on the ice, even killing penalties. Will you have enough strength for the whole season?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes, I will. I trust our fitness coach and [Head Coach] Valery Belousov.
Alexey Shvetsov: We hear you have definitely decided that this will be your last season in Russia. Is this correct?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: It’s a difficult question. For now, I don’t want to go anywhere. It will all depend on how I play this season. Of course, if I am offered a contract by Washington, I will have to think about it. But personally, I would like to play more in my home town, where everybody knows me and likes me. The club’s management met all of the conditions during summer, so now I just need to play well. Which is what I am working on.
Alexey Shvetsov: Do you see yourself on any other KHL club?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: No, I will not move to any other Russian club from Traktor. At least that’s what I think right now. I grew up in Chelyabinsk and owe everything to the club.
Alexey Shvetsov: The World Junior Championship is not far off. Last year you were one of the youngest players, this time everybody sees you as the leader of the team.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: What am I, a veteran now? (laughing) Last year we were not divided into younger and older ones, we were one. We won because of our unity and character.
The Winning Goal A Gift For My Mother
Alexey Shvetsov: Two of your teammates from that Sbornaya – Urychev and Sobchenko – recently died in a plane crash.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: It was very hard. But this is life, and you can’t get away from it. I think we in Russia must be more responsible for such routine things. Because in America, people check, and double check, before a departure is approved. Everything is strictly by the book. Here, if there is a small mistake, people just look the other way. I don’t want to offend anybody, I don’t know any details. But I fly a lot, and I see the condition some of the planes are in. Yes, we are regular people, but we pay a lot of money for our flights, and the planes must be safe and reliable. Otherwise, we are just not going to fly anymore, God forbid something like this happens again.
Alexey Shvetsov: After the tragedy in Yaroslavl, did you think it was time to leave for Washington?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: But it’s not safe to fly even to the US. Because you have to take a flight from Chelyabinsk to Moscow first.
Alexey Shvetsov: The KHL dedicated this season to Lokomotiv. What about you personally?
Additional reporting by Ian Oland (who, yes, has pneumonia).