Kuzya multi-tasks while talking to the media Tuesday.
The KHL is currently taking the week off so that the Russian National Team can participate in the upcoming Karjala Cup, an annual tournament held in Finland where the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, and Russia all face off against one another. 19-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was invited to play on the National Team and joined his teammates in Novogorsk, Moscow Region to prepare for their first game Thursday.
Despite the fact that the team is filled with stars such as Alexander Radulov and Vladmir Tarasenko, Kuznetsov — who was working out at the time — was mobbed by journalists during his media availability. In interviews to both Sovetsky Sport and Sport-Express, the gifted and versatile forward discussed his NHL plans, gossiped about the latest KHL news, and mused on what it will be like to play center again during the four day tourney.
Below the jump, check out my translation of the interview.
Question: Did you see what happened in Minsk with former Traktor coach Andrei Nazarov on Sunday?
Answer: Not yet, but I heard about it. I didn’t think it was a big deal. I think this story is overblown.
Q: You don’t see a coach going at the stands with a stick much…
A: The fans should blame themselves. They need to be respectful and not throw bottles at players on the ice. It was not pretty. And I understand Andrey Viktorovich. He’s an emotional person. You don’t need to blame it all on the coach because we are people. Everybody loses their temper sometimes.
Q: What do you think about the policy of the coaching staff directed to make the national team younger?
A: I’m all for it, because I’m the youngest [laughing]. Of course, I want to see more young players on the team.
Q: Did you hear that they wanted to try you at the center position [during the tournament]?
A: For me it’s more interesting and even more comfortable to play at center.
Q: But you’ll have to play more defense!
A: And that’s what I like!
Q: You’re the youngest player on the team. You’ll most likely have to pick up pucks after the training session…
A: That’s not a problem. The veterans here don’t push the youngsters around. We’re not living in the 80’s.
Q: Do you follow the Capitals, the team who drafted you?
A: I have a routine I follow so I can’t stay up late. But I do look up the score and see who scored goals.
Q: When are you going to leave Russia for the NHL?
A: I’ve made a decision. I know where and how I will spend the next few years of my hockey career. But I won’t talk about my plan. It would be uninteresting if I did so.
Q: Have you spoken with Dmitry Orlov who plays with the Capitals’ affiliate in Hershey?
A: Yes, we’ve talked over Skype a few times. He says that “things are okay over here”. It’s much more difficult to make it to the NHL for defensemen. There are a lot of players on one-way deals.
Q: Team Russia plays the Finns on Thursday. Mikael Granlund, who scored an interesting goal against the Russian National Team during last year’s World Championships, plays there.
A: I could make a joke about that, but I’m not of an age where you can say whatever you want to the media anymore. I will only say that I have a bet with [Traktor forward Petteri] Kontiola – the one who loses pays for dinner.
We need to beat Finns and Swedes right away. They need to know who the Russians are. We need to beat them with any players on their roster. Because if we lose once or twice, we’ll have a complex. That’s psychology!
Q: Everyone was surprised by Traktor’s great start…
A: I was surprised as well [laughing]. The key is that we are good on defense. It has helped the result so far.
Q: What are your thoughts on the World Junior Championship in Calgary?
A: I need to make the team first.
Q: WJC Head Coach Valery Bragin said you’re the only one who has a guaranteed spot on the team.
A: What if I play bad? Nobody has a guaranteed spot.
Q: Many people say that Russia hasn’t had such a strong roster as this in quite a long time.
A: Players who play in the Canadian junior leagues need to show something in the KHL first. Everybody talks about them as the top players for the next draft. I don’t want to offend the guys but I don’t think the level of hockey there is higher than in the MHL. I was offered a chance to go to the CHL myself. Many thanks to my Russian agent Valery Guschin who talked me out of taking that step. I’m just happy I didn’t go there. What would I do there? Clean windows in McDonald’s? I can do it here as well [laughing].
Russia will face Finland on Thursday, Sweden on Saturday and the Czech Republic on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.