Evgeny Kuznetsov: 2013-14 Season Review

It took four years, but Evgeny Kuznetsov finally suited up with the Washington Capitals. And with that, millions of Facebook commenters immediately stopped saying stuff like, “beleive it when i see it” and “already sick of his premadonna russian already [sic].” That alone made his season a success to me, but let’s consult the stats anyway.

BTW, today is Kuznetsov’s 22nd birthday!

By the Numbers

17 Games played
13.1 Average time on ice per game
3 Goals
6 Assists
42.3% Shot attempt percentage during 5v5
41.2% Goal percentage during 5v5
10.4% On-ice shooting percentage during 5v5
91.2% On-ice saving percentage during 5v5

Peter’s Take

We’ve been waiting for Kuznetsov since June of 2010, and he finally arrived. I can’t even attempt to summarize the tribulations leading up to Kuznetsov’s jump to the NHL, so just peruse the Kuznetsov tag and save me some carpal tunnel.

We got just 17 games out of Kuzya in his inaugural season, and despite his 229 minutes of ice or his nine points, we still know very little about him. Kuznetsov spent most of his time on the fourth line with Tom Wilson and other unfortunates. Kuzya didn’t drive possession in the Caps’ favor (the team owned 3.2 percent more shots when he wasn’t on the ice) and got soundly outscored despite a ridiculous 10.4 on-ice shooting percentage.

I’ve got no idea what to do with that information. Kuznetsov boarded a sinking ship and got stuffed away in steerage. Did we expect him to transform the bottom line into a puck-possession dynamo? And does the nature of his performance– small sample, playing in depth– tell us anything about how he might project as a top-six forward?

We could excuse the wretched underlying numbers put up by Kuznetsov by citing the Oates Effect once again, choosing instead to just see the glimmers of true jokes-osity in his play, but I worry that might be overly naive. So here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m gonna treat game one of the regular season in October like it’s the first game of Kuznetsov’s NHL career and start from there.

Kuzya on RMNB

Hope you’ve got a comfortable chair.

We also had a ton of Kuznetsov Koverage from before he joined the team, which you can pick up on by starting here.

In Pictures

Evgeny Kuznetsov scores his first NHL goal. Alex Ovechkin dives to collect the puck.

Kuznetsov’s first shootout attempt– SCOAR.

Kuznetsov’s first career NHL point: a secondary apple on an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot.

But what if this– in just Kuzya’s second game– had been his first career point? UGH.

This has nothing to do with anything, but I made it and I want to use it here. Author’s prerogative.

Your Turn

What do you know about Evgeny Kuznetsov that you didn’t know before March? Do the numbers scare you at all? Do you think Kuzya is ready for tough assignments in the top six? And finally, how glad are you that #Kuyzawatch is long gone?

Read more: Japers Rink

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  • Shaun Phillips

    As good as advertised, no (#OatesEffect), yes, soooo glad. And I think starting his evaluation from game 1 of next season is perfectly reasonable. Hell, I’d be tempted to do that with Wilson too (assuming he’s with the big club next year and not in Hershey).

  • Owen Johnson

    Just as you guys throw away puck possession stats against the Leafs, so too will I with Caps players suffering from the Oates Effect. Kuzya will be fine. Plus how do you not love that smile?!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett
  • Austin Baird

    No way! I have the same birthday as Kuzya!!

  • tpr04

    Kuz scored more ES goals in 17 games playing mostly 4th line minutes than Johannson did in 80 games playing mostly 1st line minutes. While it’s a small sample size, it was clear that Kuz is a top 6 talent in the NHL (and it’s also clear that Mojo probably is not).

  • Owen Johnson

    Taylor Swift’s new album will be called “Maybe I’m the Problem.”

  • Anthony Elworthy/scrubversive
  • Rob W.

    Looking forward to Kuzya’s first full season with a coach that doesnt use dump n fail hockey. I want to see Kuzya play in a wide open offense that lets guys be creative. Top 2 moments from him were his pass to Willy Baby and his first goal against the kings. Im thinking he could be a 40-50 point player next year

  • Owen Johnson

    A million thumbs up!

  • Lawrence
  • Barrett

    numbers don’t scare me. he’s ready for the top-6. put him on a line with ovechkin and backstrom. now that #kuzyawatch is gone….when is it #boweytime?

  • Sarah

    FTW!

  • Cameron

    Is it just me or all the gifs in reverse chronological order?

  • yv

    Kuzya was a little tentative, giving too much respect to NHLers, during his first, abbreviated season. Probably partly a result of Oates’ constraining system, whatever it was. He is at his best when he plays more aggressive, bold, Malkin-style hockey.
    Currently, he also plays a subdued role in the forth line of sbornaya, that produces less than other lines of Team Russia. But there is some chance that he might play with Malkin as a center in the next game at WC. That would be a fantastic opportunity for Kuz to shine brightly alongside one of the best center in hockey.

  • Sarah

    С днем рождения!

  • JH

    He’s so top six. Screw the stats. His hands and skating ability are top-notch. I hope he bulks up a bit in the offseason – sometimes he seems a tad waifish. His attitude is terrific, too. I am so pleasantly surprised. If we could re-sign Grabo (see what I did there?), I’d love to see those two together, maybe with Wilson or Fehr.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    it’s not just you

  • johnnymorte

    Kid’s got star talent and better than 75% of our current lineup. Underutilized along with Wilson, he should have been put on the second or top line right away to play for 20 minutes a night. This kid reminds me of Igor Larionov the way he sees things on the ice, but he has the potential to be even better. Since our team sucks at faceoffs anyway, he should be put in the middle to hone his skills. He is way too gifted to stay on the wing, and he doesn’t have the size or strength to be a power winger anyway. Grabovski should be moved to top wing(pending resigning) and Wilson moved up to play with Kuzya and Jojo.

  • Pat Magee

    He’s going to be awesome. Him and Burakovsky are gonna tear it all up next year. Just hope our GM gets us some defense!

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

    Let’s slow down on Burakovsky a bit! He should get a blow in the NHL next year – but let’s not pencil him into the line-up and have him dominating quite yet.

  • Sarah

    Totally. I want a gif of his reaction to the nose boop.

  • Bilal

    He’s a really mature kid. He is definitely top 6 talent. Great speed and sakating ability, great hands and puck ccontrol. I seriously hope we can re-sign Grabovski. A Kuzya-Grabo-Willy line would be a ton of fun

  • VeggieTart

    I like this guy. I can’t wait to see what he can do with a full season and a coach who knows how to properly utilize the talent he has.

  • VeggieTart

    Well, happy birthday to you too!

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    He dominated the Juniors. Maybe he’ll make the opening night roster. He has a sick wrist shot and great stick handling. Could be better than Johansson probably. I dunno?

  • tpr04

    Johannson should not be a yardstick by which to measure anyone. Burakovsky has some high side, but he doesn’t need to be rushed.

  • Jake Ettawakapow

    Happy Birthday babe.

  • Smiley456

    Peter’s line is perfect. And sad…

    “Kuznetsov boarded a sinking ship and got stuffed away in steerage.”

  • Eric Schulz

    My defense of Johansson would be: certainly not as a goal-scorer. Backstrom isn’t a top-6 forward because of his goal-scoring either. On THIS team, I don’t see a fit where Johansson makes sense in the top-6, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the talent to be one. His talent means less than his production (not just points production; by “talent” I mean ability, by “production” I mean what you show on the ice. Semin and Kovalev had talent out the ass, but as good as they have been at times, I don’t think they’ve ever been top-10 NHLers); at this point in his career I think he’s a 3rd liner, but that could
    just be more due to regression due to bad coaching… Oates/Hunter effect.
    I agree with the overall point though. Kuz Nasty should start the season on Grabovski’s wing on the 2nd line… and as far as Johansson, I think he’s more valuable as a trade asset than he is on our roster. Were I the GM of a rebuilding team, he would be a player I would covet.

  • Eric Schulz

    Screw the stats? Well… if you give him 15:45 minutes a game (Grabovski’s numbers last year, so we’ll call those 2nd line minutes) rather than his 13:48 of last year, then give him 82 games played, he pro-rates to 51 points. That’s about what I’m expecting (and legit 2nd line production). We need to resign Grabovski; he put up 51% CF% with Oates as the coach… that’s ridiculous. With those two on the 2nd, and BackstrOvie on the top, we have a nice forward foundation to build around.
    As far as Wilson or Fehr… assuming Penner walks (I want to resign him, but don’t see that happening), I like Fehr on top line, Wilson on 2nd, Brouwer on 3rd. I like Fehr to drive possession on top line, and Wilson’s skill and upside (and familiarity with Kuznetsov) for 2nd. If he isn’t ready for it, you can pretty easily flip him with Brouwer and still have a nice power forward for that 2nd line.

  • Eric Schulz

    Should he? If you mean preseason, then I’m all for it. As far as NHL… I mean, if it happens, great, but I am not expecting it.

  • Eric Schulz

    I hate this attitude. Aren’t our four best fowards Ovechkin, Backstrom, Grabovski, and Kuznetsov? (Assuming we resign Grabovski; we need to resign Grabovski.) Why stick 3 of your 4 best guys on the top line? I like BackstrOvie as the foundation of the 1st, and Kuznetsov and Grabovski as the foundation of the 2nd. Way easier to find one guy to complement each line than it would be to find two guys to make that 2nd line dangerous. My suggestion would be Fehr on top (drives possession), with Wilson adding muscle on 2nd (and his skill seems to be top-6 worthy too, with impressive speed. That’s just the eye test, he may not be as fast as I think, but he seemed plenty fast to me); Brouwer could work there too though.

  • Barrett

    Sorry, but Troy Brouwer isn’t a 4th liner. Assuming the Capitals resign Grabovski, you slide Fehr to the 2nd line wing opposite Brouwer. there is no guarantee that Wilson is at the NHL level and it isn’t bad that he’s a 4th liner at this point in his career. You obviously keep Chimera and Ward together and hope to find a Steve Ott or Manny Malhotra to center them via free agency. I like Beagle on the 4th with Wilson (if he’s at the NHL level) and Brooks Laich. You cannot have Ovechkin as the only scoring threat on the top line. Numerous combinations were tried the past few seasons and none have been effective since the departure of Alex Semin.

  • John Martino

    Great skill and great attitude. Funny that there was so much talk about how he should have come over sooner, but in the end when he came over he wasn’t quite ready for the NHL level. At least not for an already-listing borderline playoff team.

  • Eric Schulz

    I had Brouwer on 3rd, not 4th. Oh, I see, you want Chimera and Ward on 3rd line. Nope. They are overrated at this point; I think those two form a great 4th line, but they are bound to regress; their possession numbers weren’t as great as people seem to think (although everybody had bad numbers under Oates – mostly – so…) and their on-ice save percentage and shooting percentage are bound to regress. They are also older, and likely to regress for that reason as well. I think they make a great 4th; I like having four good lines, you can roll 4 (like Boudreau) rather than staple the 4th to the bench (like Oates).
    Also, Ott sucks. At this point, I’d prefer auditioning Latta for the role between those 2. I wouldn’t hate signing a guy, it shouldn’t cost much, but we have options if Latta doesn’t work, and I think he does.
    Brouwer and Fehr on the 2nd line makes for a 2nd that draws no defensive attention away from the top line. That’s an underwhelming 2nd. Unless we make a big move to acquire a guy to give us a really good bottom-6, I don’t see how we can be a good team with only 1 good line.
    Laich is a way better player than Chimera and Ward; I don’t know how you have those two both above him. If he’s healed, he’s a great 3rd liner. If not, then he shouldn’t be playing.
    It’s ABSOLUTELY bad that Wilson is a 4th liner at this point of his career. We totally have minor league affiliates that would allow him to actually play hockey and improve with said playing time. I think he has the skill, physicality, and speed to make an impact on the 2nd line, plus he and Kuznetsov worked together, so that could/should help. I’d definitely audition him there; if he can’t hack it, then I have no problem swapping him with Brouwer (who I have on the 3rd), or just putting Brouwer on 3rd and dropping Wilson to AHL (depending on who else we have).
    Also, Fehr is a scoring threat. He drives possession, and with more ice time plus playing with Backstrom and Ovechkin (who is an underrated passer), I’d expect 20 goals; I don’t see a huge difference in terms of their scoring next year. I’d think that Fehr could put up on the 1st very similar numbers to what Kuznetsov can do on the 2nd, but Kuznetsov would be the second option on the 2nd while he’d be only the 3rd on the 1st. I think Fehr’s proven ability to drive possession helps the top line more than Kuznetsov would… how do you expect a line of Ovechkin – Backstrom – Kuznetsov to play defense, or win any board battles?

  • Shaun Phillips

    Still love Ovi’s reaction after Kuzy’s goal. Pure unbriddled joy.

  • Rhino40

    2nd line: Kuznetsov-Grabovski-Brouwer…the KGB line–Sword and Shield of the Capitlal-ist Party.
    And lest I forget:
    С Днем Рождения Женя!

  • Barrett

    Oh right, the two guys with years of NHL experience (totaling over 1000 NHL games combined) are overrated, but the 22 year old with 17 games of NHL experience isn’t? It is ridiculous to demote Chimera and/or Ward off the 3rd line until proven otherwise they do not belong there. One of the off-season goals (in addition to finding Mike Green a suitable defense partner and resigning Mikhail Grabovkski) should be to find a veteran center to play with both Chimera and Ward on the 3rd line and possibly on the 4th line as well.

    I’m not opposed to Michael Latta – we just haven’t seen what he can do at the NHL level. No, Steve Ott doesn’t suck. He has a role and that role provides leadership, above 50% on faceoffs and a physical presence that battles hard in the corners. You don’t need a goal scorer between Chimera and Ward. You just need a hustle guy and that’s why Fehr worked so well there last year. It doesn’t have to be Ott, he’s just currently available, but anyone with that skillset.

    I really have no problem interchanging Fehr and Kuznetsov depending on their chemistry with the other members of those lines.

    I don’t see how you think the 2nd leading scorer on the Capitals, Troy Brouwer isn’t a threat for defensive opposition. I think having Grabovski hurt the 2nd half and no viable option on the LW hurt that line.

    I also think a pure defensive face-off winner is needed for the 4th line center. Chase Manny Malhotra in free agency. The guy is a face-off winning machine.

    Kuznetsov/Fehr-Backstrom-Ovechkin
    Fehr/Kuznetsov-Grabovski-Brouwer
    Chimera-Ott-Ward
    Laich-Malhotra-Wilson

  • Eric Schulz

    Malhotra is pretty damn old. Maybe it’s not a big deal for the 4th line, but he’s clearly on the decline. I’d rather get a guy who’s likely to be as good this year as last. A guy like him, sure… but I think on the 4th, Latta or Beagle will be fine. I think if we use FA to address center, it should be for a two-way guy for 3rd C rather than just defense for 4th; I think our in-house guys (Latta, Beagle, maybe Brown… Johansson is a nice fit between Chimera and Ward also, although I don’t see him dropping to 4th unless we make a helluva move to address 3 C), while I don’t see a real fit in-house for 3rd C without a healthy Laich. I don’t mind Laich – Johansson – Brouwer on the 3rd, with Laich taking faceoffs. We’d have more questions at forward than I’d like, but the defense is what needs to be addressed; I think we can certainly get by without any changes to the forward group as long as we resign Grabovski. If we add Malhotra and just have him as a scratch, to let the younger guys get ice time to develop (ice time that Malhotra doesn’t need, since he’s not going to really get better at this point), and still have Malhotra as a backup guy in case of injury, then I don’t mind that move at all.

    Again, the biggest thing I have is, I don’t see how you have Laich below Chimera and Ward on the depth chart; that makes no sense. He’s either healthy, and therefore a borderline 2nd liner, or he’s injured, and not playing.
    Almost as illogical is Wilson on the 4th. If he’s not on the 2nd or 3rd, then he’s in the AHL. Using a guy like that on the 4th is dumb; doing it two years in a row is indefensible.
    That’s a pretty clear top-6 there (we agree on that)… again, I think Wilson has a little more skill and upside than Brouwer, so I like auditioning him there first… that’s a really high-event, high-upside 2nd (Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Wilson), which leaves us with a great 3rd of
    Laich – Johansson – Brouwer
    Brouwer scores more goals than assists, Johansson looks to set people up and has a ton of skill (his production hasn’t matched his skill yet, but I think better coaching, plus a better fit helps a lot), and Laich is a really good fill-in-the-blanks guy there. It’s not a huge difference if you end up flipping Brouwer and Wilson
    Kuznetsov – Grabovski – Brouwer
    Laich – Johansson – Wilson
    but I think Brouwer is more of a known quantity, which helps that 3rd, while the tremendous skill of Kuznetsov and Grabovski means that Wilson doesn’t have to do anything that he’s not comfortable doing. It’s all about creating balance up and down the lineup, and having 3 or 4 dangerous lines.
    Chimera’s 36 years old; Ward is 33. You don’t expect a decline? Their on-ice shooting percentage last year was Chimera: 9.72% and Ward: 10.06%. You don’t expect a decline? (In the 4 previous years as a Capital, Chimera was at 7.82%, Ward was at 8.33% in his previous 2.) I don’t think putting them on the 4th line is a bad thing; having 4 good lines is a good thing. Using them a little less and keeping them fresh for the playoffs is a good thing; being able to roll 4 lines and having EVERYBODY fresher for the playoffs is a good thing. Besides, you don’t have to roll lines in a 1-4 order ALL THE TIME. If a line is having a particularly good game, you can give them more ice time. But, as a general rule, I’d rather have better players on higher lines, and Laich is a better player than those two. Wilson should be… if he isn’t, fine, let him get more ice time in the minors.
    I’d pencil in the TOI breakdown to be something like:
    20 mins
    15 mins
    15 mins
    10 mins
    And adjust accordingly as you get a feel for the flow of each individual game.
    Also, Ott sucks. His team scores 0.665 goals per 20 minutes with him on the ice. Without him, his linemates score 0.766 goals per 20. With him, his team gets scored on at a rate of 0.769 goals per 20. Without him, his linemates get scored on at a rate of 0.764 goals per 20. His team scores more without him, and allows less without him. He makes his team worse by stepping on the ice. He’s not a good hockey player.

  • Eric Schulz

    Bottom line: I think Fehr, Brouwer, and Wilson need to be the RW on the top 3 lines. How that all falls into place isn’t that big of a deal. But from what I can see, it seems like Brouwer is the most proven goal scorer (obviously), but that he doesn’t seem to bring a lot more to the table than that. As far as puck possession, he’s mostly a passenger. Fehr drives possession as well as just about anybody, other than probably Grabovski. So I’d think using Fehr on the top line gives Ovechkin and Backstrom a proven possession guy, which better complements them. With Grabovski’s ability to drive possession on the 2nd, we have two elite possession guys on the top two lines; he and Kuznetsov are both point producers. I’m not sure if he’s more of a passer or shooter, same thing with Kuznetsov. I think that means they both can be both, so we don’t really need Brouwer’s shooting there. It wouldn’t hurt, but I’d think Brouwer’s shooting would be a bigger asset on the 3rd line, especially if that’s where we have Johansson. Johansson needs a guy to pass to, and he isn’t good enough to be on the top-6, I don’t think.
    (I think it’s *possible* that Johansson is a legit 2nd line forward. I think he has the talent and skill-set to be a top-6 guy, and it’s possible that he didn’t look like it last year because of Oates. If he is, then perhaps a top-6 of
    Ovechkin – Backstrom – Kuznetsov
    Johansson – Grabovski – Brouwer
    would be great. I wouldn’t count on it. It’s a long season though, I would probably try that combination a little bit throughout the season to see how it worked.) So we can put Wilson on the 2nd with Kuznetsov and Grabovski, and he can figure out a way to complement them. He’s fast, physical, and skilled… the only real weakness I see on a Kuznetsov – Grabovski line is board battles. I think Wilson addresses that better than Brouwer (again, that’s the eye test. I could very well be underrating Brouwer here). And with Kuznetsov and Grabovski both being talented shooters and passers, Wilson doesn’t need to be primarily a shooter or passer on that line. On the top, we have Backstrom to pass, Ovechkin to finish, Fehr to do either. On the 3rd, Johansson is the passer, Brouwer finishes, and Laich can do either. On the 2nd, they can all do either (Wilson definitely showed the ability to do both, in a small sample size; obviously that SSS is a glaring weakness in having him here, but I don’t see a problem with starting the season with him here and seeing how it goes, unless, of course, he’s just that bad in preseason). It’d be nice to have guys who can do either all throughout the lineup, but by now we know Ovechkin is a shooter, so is Brouwer, Backstrom is a setup guy, so is Johansson. I think how I have them gives us 3 lines that would complement one another very well.

  • Eric Schulz

    I’ve come off that “more valuable as a trade asset” point. If we resign Grabovski, let Penner walk, and make no other big moves at the forward spot, I think Johansson fits very well on the 3rd line. With a new coach, I’d like to see us make as few changes as possible, and get 20-30 games under our belt before evaluating the team and moving anybody.
    (Minimum changes, IMO: resign Grabovski, sign one blueliner to pair with Green, sign veteran backup.)