Caps' prospects countdown: No. 1 Kuznetsov

Caps' prospects countdown: No. 1 Kuznetsov
June 27, 2013, 10:00 am
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With Sunday’s NHL entry draft fast approaching – the Capitals own eight selections, including the 23rd overall pick – we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 prospects already in the organization and a brief scouting/progress report on each.

Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley has profiled all 10 prospects, in descending order. Today concludes the series with the Caps’ No. 1 prospect, Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Age: 21

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 172

Hometown: Chelyabinsk, Russia

Drafted: 1st round [26th overall] in 2010

Contract Status: Unsigned

2012-13 Team: Chelyabinsk Traktor [KHL]

Games: 51

Goals: 19

Assists: 25

Points: 44

Penalty Minutes: 42

Plus-Minus: Minus-1

Scouting Report: Many scouts consider Kuznetsov one of the most skilled forwards not playing in the NHL and it looks as though Caps fans will have to wait another year to see him in red, white and blue. Kuznetsov has one year remaining on his KHL contract with Chelyabinsk and has told reporters he intends to play for the Capitals in 2014-15. “He’s finished the first year of a two-year deal,” Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “Maybe we’ll see him after his season’s over.” Kuznetsov will not participate in the Caps' annual development camp from July 8-13 at Kettler. McPhee has said he believes Kuznetsov’s development would be better served in North America but that he’s willing to wait for the talented forward and has no interest in trading away his rights. Kuznetsov ranked fifth in scoring in the KHL this season, improving his total from the previous season by three points. He added five goals and six assists in 25 playoff games. Known for his offensive flair, Kuznetsov is considered one of Russia’s best skaters and can pass and shoot as well as any player in Europe. He’s also strong along the boards but could use work with his defensive play.

2013-14 Expectations: Kuznetsov played most of this season as a left-handed shooting right wing but has played center throughout his career. Until the Capitals fill their hole at second-line center it’s hard to predict whether Kuznetsov will play at center or wing under Adam Oates, who likes to keep left-handers on the left side. The Caps will keep a close eye on Kuznetsov during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he could play on a line with NHL stars Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk. There has been some talk about Kuznetsov leaving Chelyabinsk as early as late March of 2014, but McPhee said he’s not certain of that. “I’m not sure how that’s going to go. There’ll be some discussions next year. … That’s our understanding, yes, that he intends to play here.”