Caps dream team: Semin, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin

Caps dream team: Semin, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin
May 17, 2012, 6:48 pm
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In Finland today Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will skate together as teammates, representing Russia in the quarterfinal round of the World Hockey Championships.

For a time, Capitals fans held out hope they would one day see the three talented forwards together on the same ice at the Verizon Center.

Not so much anymore.

Who wouldnt like to be a fly on the wall listening to what Ovechkin and Semin are telling Kuznetsov about the Capitals?

With Semin, 28, headed toward unrestricted free agency, Ovechkin, 26, unhappy about his playing time and Kuznetsov, 20, committed to playing in the Kontinental Hockey League for the next two years, Capitals general manager George McPhee is faced with a very difficult philosophical decision.

Is the risk of drafting highly touted Russian players worth the reward?

For years, other NHL general managers have shied away from drafting Russian players, fearing they would do what Kuznetsov is doing spurning the NHL for the KHL.

Weve talked to Kuznetsovs agent, McPhee said. It doesnt appear that hes going to make it over for next season. Hes a young guy, hes only 20 years old, so we understand why he might not want to leave yet. But at some point hell want to come to this league.
Its the best league in the world and hes a heck of a player, so when hes ready to come well be ready for him.

No one has ever questioned Kuznetsovs talent. In fact, some say hes the worlds best player not in the NHL.

In 49 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk this season he posted career highs with 19 goals, 21 assists and 40 points and delivered seven goals and two assists in 12 playoff games.
He was the best player on the ice at the 2012 World Junior Championships with six goals
and seven assists in six games.

Several NHL general managers, including McPhee, believe Kuznetsov would make an immediate impact in the NHL next season. McPhee says hes concerned that two more seasons in the KHL will adversely affect Kuzentsovs transition to the NHL if and when it comes.

It is a concern, McPhee said. We like him a lot as a player. We think hes a terrific player. But at the same time, I think he can take the bad habits out of the game. On the other hand, theyre usually bigger and stronger if they come a little bit later.

If McPhee had known at the NHL trade deadline that Kuznetsov would not be coming to Washington next season he might have dealt his rights. There were several NHL general managers, including Ottawas Bryan Murray, who asked about the talented Russian.

But with Kuznetsov committed to two more years in Russia those offers likely wont be coming this summer. And if Semin decides to make his millions elsewhere, the Caps will be left with just two Russians on their roster Ovechkin and defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Another Russian prospect, forward Stanislav Galiev, also stands a good chance of making the Capitals 2012-13 roster.

As for filling the potential voids left by Semin and Kuznetsov, McPhee says its on his list of things to do this summer, after hiring a head coach, of course.

Id just be speculating, McPhee said. Every summer is a challenge with these jobs. Theres never a summer when you dont have anything to do.