Kuznetsov at the KHL All-Star Game (Photo credit: sport-express.ru)
At the KHL All-Star Game in Cheylabinsk last week, Tomas Kmec of allhockey.ru spoke to Washington Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov. In the interview Kuznetsov, who is under contract with Traktor Cheylabinsk through 2013-14, revealed for the first time that he plans to play in Washington after his contract ends.
“I promised to play for Washington after the Olympics,” Kuznetsov said, as translated by RMNB’s Fedor Fedin. “I want to play in [DC], but I’m playing for Traktor right now. I have a contract and I will continue to fight with sweat and blood playing for such a great club.”
When asked why he chose to stay in Russia during the summer, either because of the Olympics or money, Kuznetsov gave a very short answer. “I knew there was going to be an NHL lockout,” Kuzya replied. “That’s it.”
This explanation differs from what Kuznetsov told media this past June, saying he wasn’t physically or emotionally ready to play in the NHL. Evgeny also wanted a better shot at playing for Russia in the Sochi Olympics.
“Of course, my main goal is to make it to the Olympics,” Kuznetsov said to Evgenia Skroznikova. “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.”
In December, during an interview with PROsport Magazine, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin criticized Kuznetsov for staying in Russia.
“He should’ve gone to America,” Ovechkin said. “Even if it hadn’t worked out, he’d quietly come back to Russia and have the same role and the same money that was available before. I think he’ll understand it in a year. He’ll understand that it is time to go to the NHL, but he’ll have a year left on his deal with Traktor.”
It appears Ovechkin was right.
Now that Kuznetsov has pledged to play in the NHL, Kmec wondered if the 20-year-old forward thought he could challenge for the Calder trophy, which is given to the NHL’s top rookie, during his first season.
“You know, all those personal awards don’t really matter,” Kuzya replied to allhockey.ru. “I’m always thinking about the team. Team achievements are the number one thing for me. I want to hide my ego, play the right way and execute the coach’s system.”
Thanks to RMNB commenter Yv for first alerting us. Translation by Fedor Fedin.