During the Russian National Team’s media day before the World Championships, Evgeny Kuznetsov announced that he will be staying in the KHL for two more seasons.
Photo credit: RIA Novosti, Vladimir Pesnya
R-Sport’s Alyona Shilova talked to Evgeny Kuznetsov about… you guessed it: heading to the NHL. Kuznetsov reveals that Washington has made an offer to him, but he has not responded.
Alyona Shilova: How do you feel? Is it possible to grow professionally here, in the KHL?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes, that’s a very good level. Possibly our league will be on the same level as the NHL soon.
Alyona Shilova: During the playoffs you said you’ve made the decision regarding your future: you will stay for one more year… Has anything changed or you said it not to get asked this question for some time?
Evgeny Kuznetsov: I wanted people to leave me alone for some time. You get tired of that. April 30th [KHL qualifying offers deadline] will come. Traktor will have to make me an offer, and we’ll see then. There’s no talks about that yet. I can’t do anything yet, I can only think, dream and talk about it all the time with everybody.
The Evengy Kuznetsov saga continues. After making comments to Russian television indicating he wanted to remain in Russian next season and then backtracking, the time for Kuznetsov to make his decision has come. Kuzya’s KHL team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, was eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals in five games. He had two goals and two assists in the series.
He now has two options: sign Traktor’s qualifying offer worth around $1.5 million per year with the possibility of receiving an unknown KHL stipend or bolt to the NHL and sign an NHL entry level contact worth a maximum of $925,000 a season plus possible signing and performance bonuses. There are also outside factors likely to be at play — Kuznetsov was married last year and moving to America would be a big step for the 20-year-old non-English speaker. Kuznetsov is a part of the Russian national team so we likely won’t know anything until after the World Championships, taking place in Helsinki and Stockholm throughout May.
Evgeny Kuznetsov sprints down the wing during Game 1.
In the first two games of the KHL’s Eastern Conference Finals, Traktor managed to split their home games with Avangard. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who just came off a dominant, five-goal performance in the Semifinals, continued his torrid pace, netting two goals and an assist in Games 1 and 2. Let’s review.
Nine days ago, on KHL-TV’s “The Icing Show,” 19-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov revealed that he would stay in Russia next season.
“To be honest, my decision has been reached,” Kuznetsov told host Igor Larin. “It is my intention to continue my career in the KHL. At the same time there is no clarity as to which club it will be.”
Since then, no context has been gleaned from his statement until now.
Earlier today, Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice, including the game-winner, to help push Traktor Chelyabinsk to the Eastern Conference Finals. In an interview with Rossiya 2 TV after the game, Kuznetsov admitted that his statement about staying in KHL was not serious. “I said that I am staying so they’d leave me alone.”
Below the jump, I offer a complete translation of his comments.
Photo credit: hotice.ru
On March 12th, the MHL, the KHL’s developmental league, held an All-Star game for under-18 year-old players in Cheylabinsk, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s hometown. KHL president Alexander Medvedev attended the one-day event and made time to meet with the local press. When asked his opinion about the future of the league’s most popular player, Medvedev responded, “Kuznetsov would be better playing a couple more years here.”
Apparently Kuznetsov agrees with Medvedev, because today on KHL-TV’s “The Icing Show,” the 19-year-old Caps prospect revealed that he will stay in Russia next season.
Update 1:50pm: Traktor’s website says Kuznetsov should only miss a week’s worth of time and will be ready to play in the KHL’s Gagarin Cup playoffs on March 1st.
In the final minutes of Traktor’s 2-1 win over Spartak, Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov was checked by defender Andre Benoit near the corner boards. According to Soviet Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Kuznetsov was badly injured on the play. He “fell down, was yelling, slamming hands against the ice, and was in terrible pain.”
The 19-year-old KHL superstar was then stretchered off and taken to a hospital for a MRI.
After the game, Traktor coach Valeri Belousov told the media that Kuznetsov may be done for the year.
Video of the hit that caused Kuzya’s injury can be seen below the jump.
Before leaving for the 2012 World Junior Championships, Evgeny Kuznetsov had been in a a slump, tallying only two assists in five KHL games. Since he returned from Calgary, the WJC Tournament MVP regained his lost form posting four goals and three assists in his last five contests for Traktor Chelyabinsk. His game-winning goal against SKA Saint Petersburg on Tuesday reclaimed for him the league lead (6) from teammate Petteri Kontiola. Kuzya also had a four-game point streak, snapped on Thursday in a 3-2 loss to Dinamo Riga. That streak fell one game short of tying his KHL career best.
Despite their first line winger’s late December slump, Traktor hasn’t missed a beat. The White Bears are 8-4-2 in their last 14 games and lead the KHL’s Eastern Conference with 84 points. Though the KHL trade deadline was a bit of disappointment for the Chelyabinsk team — the only notable acquisition was Avangard’s veteran defenseman Dmitry Ryabykin — Traktor looks poised to make a playoff run in the spring. Their young superstar will now travel to Riga to participate in his second straight KHL All-Star game with Team Fedorov.
Since his last two weeks in Russia have been particularly noteworthy, let’s take a look back at his goals, fancy assists, and bizarre celebrations.
Evgeny Kuznetsov speeds down the middle during Traktor’s game against Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk (Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin, Traktor PR Service)
Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, currently sitting in the top 15 in both goals and points (12g, 12a), was named a KHL All-Star for the second time on Monday. Unlike last season, Kuznetsov was overwhelmingly voted in as a starter this year by fans and will represent “Team Fedorov” of the Eastern conference. The 19-year-old Traktor Chelyabinsk forward finished second overall in total votes (33,800), trailing only Mikelis Redlihs of the Western Conference’s “Team Ozolins.”
To put Kuznetsov’s immense popularity in perspective, consider that he garnered more votes than reigning MVP Alexander Radulov, Roman Cervenka (the KHL’s leading scorer), Vladimir Tarasenko, and Russian National Team Captain Alexei Morozov.
Recently, Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov did a lengthy feature story on Kuznetsov, who some have called the new face of the KHL. Like most interviews with Russian players, the story starts off with questions about Vityaz Chekhov, who was recently beaten by Traktor on the scoreboard and tried to beat them back with their fists.
Most importantly to Caps fans, Kuznetsov discussed his possible NHL future, his contract situation, and who he idolized as a kid. Below the jump, I have the translation.
Kuznetsov’s goal against Neftekhimik comes at the 1:00 mark — his assist immediately thereafter. He also has a breakaway attempt at 2:05.
In a Kharlamov Division match-up Monday, the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk destroyed Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (how do you even say that?) 8-2, their biggest win of the season. The Petrochemists, whose defense might as well have been staffed by actual scientists, had no answer for Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzya scored his tenth goal of the season — the game’s deciding tally — on a beautiful wraparound to put Traktor up 3-0 in the first period. Also, he fancily went behind the back to assist on Andrei Popov’s goal from the slot.