Evgeny Kuznetsov (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
Super sophomore Evgeny Kuznetsov has soared up the scoring derby, even moving ahead of accomplished teammate Alex Ovechkin.
Good things come to those who wait, and the Washington Capitals were patient with Evgeny Kuznetsov. Despite drafting the Russian center in 2010, Washington didn’t get to sample the kid’s skills until the second half of 2013-14 thanks to an extended stay at home in the KHL.
In fact, he was still Calder-eligible last season. But based on his pedigree, there was no way Kuznetsov would experience a sophomore slump. The opposite has been true: at 23, he has hit his stride, averaging better than a point per game through the season’s first 53 games.
That makes Kuznetsov the leading scorer on the Caps – ahead of Alex Ovechkin – and fifth overall in the NHL. Just don’t ask him if he’s comfortable playing here now.
“I don’t like to talk about my game,” he said. “You probably know that, but you have to ask, right?”
Kuznetsov is famously serious when it comes to his on-ice play – he lets his performances speak for themselves – and since he’s having such success, it’s hard to knock his approach.
Now fully entrenched in Washington, Kuznetsov has been a huge driver for the Caps, one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. This season, he has played with Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, but now holds down the second line with Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams – still having success no matter who he lines up with.
“When he has the puck, things start to happen,” Oshie said. “He makes so much time and space for his linemates and at other times, he goes through a couple guys and puts the puck in the net, too.”
And though the young Russian doesn’t like to talk about his game on the ice, life in D.C. is fair game.
“My family really likes the city and I feel comfortable, too,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s not the same as my hometown, but it’s nice to have a second hometown. When you feel comfortable off the ice, you don’t have any problems.”
A family man already, Kuznetsov is the proud papa of a six-month-old daughter. Ecenia sleeps in her parents’ room and, lucky for them, she doesn’t wake up much during the night. As for parenthood, Kuznetsov couldn’t be happier. “One hundred percent,” he said.
And if Kuznetsov and the Caps can keep up their current level of play for the long-term, perhaps little Ecenia can sleep next to the Stanley Cup for a night.