Evgeny Kuznetsov in Team Russia practice facility. (Photo credit: Sovetsky Sport)
4PM UPDATE: A few days ago Team Russia head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov announced three goalies and 25 skaters, including Kuznetsov, who “would be travelling to Helsinki and Stockholm for the Worlds Championship tournament.” Not all of the players named by the coach will be on the Team Russia’s final roster. IIHF rules allow for the minimum of 15 skaters and 2 goalies to be named no later than today; players can be added to the roster at any time during the tournament, up to the maximum of 22 skaters and 3 goalies. While some teams have filed their full rosters, Team Russia is taking an incremental approach. They announced today the first group of players – 3 goalies, 5 defensemen, and 11 forwards. Evgeny Kuznetsov does not appear on the list. Kuzya may make the team later, especially if some of the Russian players currently involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs do not make a quick 1st round exit.
ORIGINAL STORY: Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has been named to Team Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Championships, which begin Friday in Sweden and Finland.
Kuznetsov won gold in last year’s World Champs while playing in a limited role. Kuzya has been less than impressive in the last few months, earning Joey Crabb treatment by national team coach Zinetula “Bill” Bilyaletdinov, playing on the fourth line at the EuroHockeyTour tournament in Czech Republic. To his credit, Kuznetsov looked impressive in his limited ice time, which probably secured him a spot on the national team. After the tournament, Kuznetsov, who has been encouraged to tweak his game to a less flashy, more steady team style by Traktor coach Valery Belousov, complained about the “black cat on his shoulder” that’s been bringing him bad luck for the last half of the season. He told reporters that he has set a conditioning program for the off-season to come back in a better shape for the beginning of next season.
Traktor will sure need it. Despite retaining star goalie Michael Garnett, top line forwards Jan Bulis and Stanislav Chistov and second-line center Petri Kontiola, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding future of the Traktor squad. Despite being far from the richest team in the league, the club from hockey-obsessed Chelyabinsk has had two long playoff runs in the last couple years. Now they’ve lost their top all-situation defenseman Deron Quint, veteran forward Maxim Yakutsenya as well as few of the youngest members of the squad: defenseman Nikita Nesterov and forwards Maxim Karpov and Valery Nichushkin.
In slightly less important Kuzya news, Hockey’s Future has named him their Prospect of the Year. If you’re the world’s prospect even in your ‘down’ year, that’s quite impressive.