Photo credit: khl.ru
A month ago, Caps prospect and forever waffler Evgeny Kuznetsov revealed some big news to Slovak journalist Tomas Kmec. Kuznetsov, for the first time, committed to a date for playing in the NHL.
“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.”
The Russian quotes, which Fedor translated from an allhockey.ru story, seemed pretty strong. Then Kmec, the reporter of the story, emailed RMNB a link to the full audio of his interview and there were a few differences in what was written and what was said. Kuznetsov’s words committing to the NHL were actually stronger than what was originally published.
Your decision between Traktor and Washington wasn’t easy. What was the most important factor there? Was it your feeling that under coach Valery Belousov you have a good chance to keep up your productive play and get the spot on the Olympic team in Sochi, family or financial matters?
There was a lot of stuff involved. I’ll just stay I knew there was going to be a lockout. [laughs]
It’s difficult to talk about the future, but still. If nothing serious happens, can the Capitals expect Evgeny Kuznetsov to arrive by 2015?
Yes, I’ll keep my word. I promised to come to the NHL after the Olympics no matter what. Of course it’s every player’s dream to play there. I want to play there, I have the desire to play there but I’m here and I’m home, under contract and I’ll fulfill it and will spill my blood and sweat. Playing for such a glorious club as [Traktor] Chelyabinsk is not something everyone gets to do.
You’ll be 23 then and I think the Calder Trophy race won’t be the last thing on your priority list, right?
I’m not thinking about personal trophies. I think about the team. Team is the number one thing for me and I have hidden my ego a while ago. I want to play in a way that’s good for my team, I want to play the game the right way as coach wants me to and execute his game plan.
You were a captain on under-18 and under-20 national team. Can you imagine yourself being a captain in Traktor or Washington?
I don’t know, it’s up to the coach and the team to decide who’s gonna be a captain. To be a captain is a huge honor for any player, but not any player can be a captain.
Meanwhile, with all European leagues on a week-long break to accommodate national team play, the 20-year-old superstar has been playing for Team Russia during the EuroHockeyTour. Despite having one of his biggest slumps of his KHL career in the middle of the season, Kuznetsov is tied for 7th in KHL scoring with 42 points (18 goals and 24 assists) in 49 games.
Kuznetsov, however, has not been happy with his play.
“To be honest, I feel embarrassed to look at the eyes of people, coach, guys on the team and in the system,” he said to sports.ru and translated by Fedor Fedin. “I’ve gotta be [playing] up to their standards and I’m not. All I hope for is that the playoffs will be different.”
The Caps prospect continued: “I lost my game. I don’t have star disease at all. I try to play more for the good of the team, but it hasn’t worked out. The problem is that I don’t show the play I should and so I don’t deserve to be on such a great team at Eurotour. I’ve gotta score, get points, be valuable, and what I’m getting is the opposite: minus-2, minus-3 every game.”
With quotes like that, you almost feel sorry for Kuzya that he never had the opportunity to play under Dale Hunter.
Translations and additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.