Kuzya and his new gold medal. (Photo credit: argumenti.ru)
While former World Junior Championship teammate Vladimir Tarasenko announced on Saturday that he’d play in the NHL next season, today Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov sealed the deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk, signing a two-year extension which will keep him in Russia until 2013-14.
In a television interview conducted with Evgenia Skroznikova of the local Chelyabinsk TV channel Canal 31 last week, Kuznetsov revealed that it was a very difficult decision for him to make, but one that he had finally found peace with.
“First of all, I did not feel ready to make the move to live [in America], with my parents and wife,” Kuznetsov explained. “Simply, both emotionally and physically I am not ready to play hockey there. I think it will be very good for me to play [in Russia] for another two years. It was pretty much a 50-50 decision. I wanted to go and try myself [in the NHL], but I thought it over, Traktor made me a good offer, so why not stay, play here and bulk up.”
Kuznetsov, who recently turned 20, also has his sights set on the Sochi Olympic games in 2014. “Of course, my main goal is to make it to the Olympics. If I were to go to the NHL – and what if I couldn’t prove myself right away and would be sent to the minor leagues – that would be the end for my Olympic dream. Here – I will have visibility and a chance to prove myself, and to play during Eurotour.”
Throughout the Capitals season, fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin saw their ice time fluctuate both under coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. Hunter banished Semin to the press box for several games during the regular season. Both players were given career-low minutes in the playoffs, playing in less heralded roles than they were used to.
Did this have any effect on Kuznetsov’s decision to stay home? “Yes, I was concerned about going to the NHL and ending up sitting on the bench,” Kuzya admitted. “Of course [Capitals management was] telling me it wouldn’t happen – but for them it is a business first and foremost, and I realize that there are millions of locals there just like me.”
After concluding his season with a gold medal in Sweden, Kuznetsov and his wife Nastya, along with friends Georgi and Olya Gelashvili will now get away for a vacation. “I’ll sleep for about four days, then play PS3 for another four days, and then spend a couple of days on the beach.”
When the interviewer asked him about his World Championships win, and his hopes for Olympic gold, Kuznetsov — who wears a Capitals hat some days, has a Caps air freshener in his car, and plays NHL 12 as Washington — made sure she remembered one final goal. “Don’t forget about the Stanley Cup as well!”
Translation by Igor Kleyner.