Evgeny Kuznetsov (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Evgeny Kuznetsov keeps making opposing defenses look silly with his incredible playmaking ability. This time, it was Alex Ovechkin who cashed in on an awesome, spinning pass. The Capitals appear to have another star on their hands.
As if it’s not enough to have to defend Evgeny Kuznetsov one-on-one, defenders are going to have to start worrying about every potential passing lane. That’s because it’s getting ever more apparent that defending Kuznetsov means any of his teammates, no matter if he’s looking at them or not, can be an option. Take Kuznetsov’s slick set up of Alex Ovechkin Thursday night as the latest example.
Kuznetsov had picked up a puck in the corner when he cut behind the Islanders’ net with New York’s John Tavares trailing him. Kuznetsov held the puck, waited until he was nearly on the other side of the goal, spun and fired a perfect pass for Ovechkin to tap home. Ovechkin, referee Trevor Hanson and the goal judge seemed to be the first to realize what had happened:
Kuznetsov has made a habit of using the net to disguise passes this season, and this is quickly becoming his signature move. The thing about defending it, though, is that Kuznetsov can be as lethal a shooter as he is a passer, so it’s hard to know which option to defend when he has the puck on his stick.
With his assist Thursday, Kuznetsov moved into sole possession of fifth in league scoring and he now has 16 goals and 58 points in 56 outings. In his second full season in the league, Kuznetsov stands to more than double his output from his rookie campaign, which was a respectable 11 goals and 37 points. Right now, his current point pace would see him net 23 goals and 85 points. But at the rate Kuznetsov is scoring, would anyone be surprised if he reaches 90 this season?
Since the start of January, Kuznetsov has 25 points in 19 games, and he’s only been held off the score sheet five times in 2016. The Capitals didn’t need to find another star, but it looks like they have in Kuznetsov.