Photo credit: Lenta.ru

Last week, Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was left off Russia’s Channel One Cup roster. After missing a large chunk of the season due to shoulder surgery, Kuznetsov — who’s been inconsistent on a struggling Traktor Chelyabinsk team — appears destined to be left off Russia’s Olympic team.

Over the weekend, Kuznetsov told Alexey Shevchenko that the only reason he stayed in Russia was to make that team. Well, Kuzya, your Olympic dream is still alive. Barely.

As usual, Team Russia members gathered in Moscow to face the media before departing for the EuroHockeyTour stage, which will be in Sochi this time. Here’s what coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov told Shevchenko for the team’s official site:

Alexey Shevchenko: Those who didn’t make the EuroTour roster can’t hope for more? As you understand, I’m talking about Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Zinetula Bilyaletdinov: It’s a very difficult question. We’ll follow him and right now I’m not ready to say if he’s got a chance or not. It’ll depend on how he’ll play in KHL regular season. If Evgeny plays the way he’s supposed to, he’ll get a chance.”

It’s also been announced that Traktor’s coach Valery Belousov will join Team Russia’s staff. Belousov declined to comment on Kuznetsov’s situation before meeting the rest of the coaches on Tuesday.

  • Jack Conness

    I’m sick of the drama. I just want Kuznetsov to get over here ASAP so he can get some NHL time before the playoffs.

  • Mark Chaffer

    Well, luckily for you, he cannot leave until his season in the K is over.

  • yv

    If his teammate Tarasenko and/or Nichushkin would be selected into the Olympic team, the dream of your life, and Kuzya not, then that would be a good fiction story about choices you making and that, maybe, indeed, money doesn’t buy happiness?

  • Freedoooom

    Who cares. He’s better than both.

    He’s the #1 guy for Traktor, so he gets all the blame.

  • Josh Carey

    Do we know why he thought he’d have a better chance of making the team being in Russia? Obviously NHLers make the Russian team, so why didn’t he think he could?

  • Freedoooom

    Hunter benched Orlov in favor of Schultz and Wideman.

  • johnnyorte

    I just hope this kid is not playing through injuries. May be the reason for his struggles. Under the circumstances, it’s not unlikely.

  • JH

    I’m hoping this kid is as good as we hope/think he is when he hits big-time NHL play. Not making the Team Russia cut kind of cuts into my optimism.
    Hope I’m wrong, but right now he doesn’t seem like “Savior Kuzya” that everyone thinks he will be.

  • Owen Johnson

    Oh no! Is he *gulp* an enigma?

  • Jack Conness

    Totally agree.

  • BPThomas

    So basically, he has a chance to have a chance? Not looking too good.

  • BPThomas

    My guess is that it’s more than likely. If he sat from injuries It’s all but guaranteed that he wouldn’t get to play on the Olympic team.

  • BPThomas

    It shouldn’t, Team Russia has a slew of stars that are basically shoe-in’s. It’s the coaches prerogative to play grinders on the bottom six, as is usually the case. There will absolutely be less talented players on the team than our recently injured Kuzya. The guy may be over-hyped a little bit here, but he wasn’t the best non-NA prospect for years for nothing.

  • Matt

    For some stupid reason, the Russian team going 50/50 with the NHL and KHL players

  • Red

    Is this a trick question? I can probably think of a few reasons.
    Moving to another country, having to adapt to a completely different culture, learning a new language, leaving behind friends and family, dealing with unfamiliar surroundings, playing away from your teammates and your home crowd, learning new rules, transforming playing style to fit into new team system, familiarizing yourself with the entire organization, and separating yourself from the very people who would decide your fate in a lifelong dream to play in the Olympics for your home country IN your home country.

    Kuzya sacrificed an early jump-start to his career by postponing his transition into the NHL. That’s why it’s doubly sad that he (likely) won’t be making the Olympic roster this time around.

  • sd

    McPhee will trade him for Iginla don’t worry.

  • BIll

    I’d be stoked if he did come over this season, but do the Caps have salary cap space for him right now?

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, one wrapped in a riddle, even!

  • Graham Dumas

    Do we know this is happening? I’m pretty sure Fedor said explicitly that this wasn’t happening in his last Kuzya story. Do you have info that the situation has changed?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Yeah we knew about it. It doesn’t change anything. Remember, Kuzya wasn’t invited to a tournament at Sochi that included a roster of 24 KHL guys. Things do not look up for him.

  • Simon

    I’ve seen pretty realistic expectations over the last year. He looks like a top 6 scoring wing basically. From what I know/have seen (in very limited exposure) he doesn’t play physical and is not especially known for defense but has above average offensive tools and skating. So we could be looking at a Fleischmann type player or possibly better. If anyone is counting on him to be a full on NHL superstar then I think they are a little unrealistic.

  • Simon

    Probably not a cap issue. If he comes over at the end of the year the cap hit is prorated so a 4 million a year salary would only hit the cap for a fraction of that, likely less than a million.

  • Danny Lioudkevitch

    If it wasn’t for his injury, he wouldn’t have had such a slow start. And even then, he’s still producing decently. IMO, the injury is the sole reason for the Olympic team doubts. He’s still as good as we perceived him to be before the injury. He’ll definitely return to form soon, I just hope it’s quick enough for him to get back into the Olympic radar.