Evgeny Kuznetsov Is Proving His Worth Yet Again

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The Washington Capitals are back to doing what they do best, playing good hockey. It has been a long wait considering this season had a worrying start. Reaching the salary cap was one problem, many key players had an unsettling wait even before the season started. Evgeny Kuznetsov was one of those set to be a top free agent for the first time. However, there was no need for concern. He committed long-term to the Caps, and has been proving his worth yet again this season. Kuznetsov is fast becoming one of the most valuable players on the team.

Evgeny Kuznetsov Proving His Worth Yet Again.

Kuznetsov re-signed to an impressive eight-year, $62.4 million contract in Washington. There are many reasons why resigning him was a smart move.

Kuznetsov is the ultimate play-maker for Washington. His skill to see the game and create chances for teammates is evident in his statistics. Leading the team with 27 assists and 39 points this season; good for 9th and 14th in the league respectively.

He also boasts an impressive 15.2 rel.xGF% on the man-advantage; good for fifth in the league among players with at least 100 PP minutes. Add to that his three powerplay goals (his total number last season), bringing his career powerplay goals to 15.

If Kuznetsov continues to excel in special teams situations for the rest of the season, he is likely to surpass his totals from the 2016-17 season. He had 40 assists and a total of 59 points

Kuznetsov is foremost a team player, his team-leading 15 primary assists attest as such. He even said this himself in a post-training interview with AllCaps hockey.

“My part probably just try and be me and give him the puck”

This is one of the reasons why is he is a vital cog in Washington’s offensive machine this season. Though his play-making attributes make him a valuable member of the team, it’s his added goal-scoring abilities that make him invaluable. Either from the high slot or getting the rebound in the crease, he has notched 12 goals this season. This places him 2nd for goals and points on the team, with only superstar Alex Ovechkin beating him.

How Does He Compare Next To “The Big Boys”

His chemistry with bigger and more experienced players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, and T.J Oshie on the powerplay is obvious.  This 1st power-play unit has had 145 Shots For and only 23 Shots Against so far. Playing with these experienced players gives him more confidence, His Corsi For % on the powerplay this season is 90.3. This powerplay unit has slick passing and has very few turnovers in the opposing end.

If you compare the second line center with his fellow teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who is above Kuznetsov on the depth chart, he may not boost the team as effectively as the top line forward (CF% 52.5) but Backstrom isn’t even close to Kuznetsov in assists or points.

Kutznetsov’s attitude and skill improvements this season alone have not gone unnoticed. He currently plays an Average of 19:08 minutes per game, more than last season where he averaged around 16 minutes. To compare, T.J Oshie gets around 19:04 minutes and Ovi TOI is averaged at 19:27. Kuznetsov is currently the third most played forward.

What To Look Out For Next?

Kuznetsov has gone from strength to strength, it is not over yet but it is predicted that he will overtake his achievements from last season. His ability to read this fast-paced game is beyond his years. It can only get better as he can take comfort in knowing he has a few more years to improve. As his experience and confidence grows, he has become a very exciting player to watch with a great future ahead. The Capitals are back on form after their initial slump at the start of the season, but they will need the continued playmaking skills from players like Kuznetsov to progress further in the playoffs. Perhaps this will be their year.

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