Before leaving for the 2012 World Junior Championships, Evgeny Kuznetsov had been in a a slump, tallying only two assists in five KHL games. Since he returned from Calgary, the WJC Tournament MVP regained his lost form posting four goals and three assists in his last five contests for Traktor Chelyabinsk. His game-winning goal against SKA Saint Petersburg on Tuesday reclaimed for him the league lead (6) from teammate Petteri Kontiola. Kuzya also had a four-game point streak, snapped on Thursday in a 3-2 loss to Dinamo Riga. That streak fell one game short of tying his KHL career best.
Despite their first line winger’s late December slump, Traktor hasn’t missed a beat. The White Bears are 8-4-2 in their last 14 games and lead the KHL’s Eastern Conference with 84 points. Though the KHL trade deadline was a bit of disappointment for the Chelyabinsk team — the only notable acquisition was Avangard’s veteran defenseman Dmitry Ryabykin — Traktor looks poised to make a playoff run in the spring. Their young superstar will now travel to Riga to participate in his second straight KHL All-Star game with Team Fedorov.
Since his last two weeks in Russia have been particularly noteworthy, let’s take a look back at his goals, fancy assists, and bizarre celebrations.
January 11th, Yugra – Traktor (3:2 SO)
Assist at 0:53, a kanooblian goal at 3:30.
January 13th, Traktor – Avtomobilist (1:2 SO)
A wraparound goal at 1:48, shootout goal at 3:40.
January 15th, Traktor – Atlant (4:1)
Assist at 3:40.
January 17th, Traktor – SKA (3:1)
Five-on-three PP Goal at 0:25, goal (crazy move and then KAYAK CELEBRATION) at 0:50, assist on the empty-net goal at 1:15.
Traktor fans awarded Kuzya this hat after his two hat tricks at the World Juniors. The writing on it says: “Two-time hat-trick master of 2012 WJC.”
Year End Awards
Sports.ru released their KHL awards of the calendar year, giving Kuzya the first place in both “Skill player of the year – Pavel Datsyuk Award” and “Speaker of the year – Sergey Nikolaev Award.” He was given the Datsyuk for this play:
His second award was for inventing a new word in the Russian language, which now has become one of his nicknames. When asked about his line’s success during the 2011 WJC he said: “How to say it softer… We’re lucky-[rear]ed”.