[Ed. Note: We're very pleased to introduce our newest contributor, Malin A, to you all (though you may know her already as "Ice Warrior"). Malin will be providing news and views from across the pond in her native Sweden, so welcome her and enjoy her work.]
Top Caps prospects Evgeny Kuznetsov (first round 2010 draft, 26th overall) and Dmitri Orlov (second round 2009 draft, 55th overall) are not attending rookie camp this year because their KHL seasons have already begun. Earlier this month they played for team Russia’s U-20 team in a tournament in Nyköping. Team Russia won all three games against Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden respectively.
Japers’ Rink talked to Orlov and Kuznetsov after the Czech game. [Note: The level of the language varies quite a bit in the interviews because Kuznetsov did almost all of his interview in English, but Orlov’s English is still pretty limited. There was one person translating from Russian to Swedish and another one translating from Russian to English. And of course there was also Kuznetsov who thought that he was best suited to transcribe what Orlov was saying. With all the different languages flowing around in the air and the misunderstandings that followed I found myself looking around the room and wouldn’t have been surprised to see Marduk’s ziggurat in a corner somewhere.]
Japers' Rink: What did you think about the game? [Note: both Orlov and Kuznetsov had an assist in the game]
Kuznetsov: I’m very pleased with the win but we have to be better in our next game. Sweden is the best team in the tournament so it’s going to be hard to win against them.
JR: It looked like you had a good chemistry with your linemate Artem Voronin?
EK: I play with a lot of different players I don’t think it’s anything special playing with Voronin. I played with him for a couple of games so I know what he likes to do on the ice but that’s it.
JR: How did you feel when your named got called in the draft?
EK: I was very excited and especially when such a big club like the Washington Capitals choose me I was so happy. I think 27 (sic) was a good place.
JR: What did you think about development camp?
EK: Good place, good practice good coaches. I’m so happy just being there training with such great coaches.
JR: And eating cupcakes?
EK: [Both Orlov and Kuznetsov start laughing] Yeah, they were delicious.
JR: I have to ask about the draft photo, what exactly did the the photographer say to you?
EK: [Laughs.] Guy tells me to do happy face so I do [shows face with hands]. It was strange but what can you do? I was happy so no problem really.
JR: When do you think you will be ready to play in the NHL?
EK: Maybe next season. I’m not ready right now I have a contract for two more years. Maybe next season I pay money and and play Hershey and play Washington...
JR: So you are willing to play in Hershey before you move on to Washington?
EK: Yeah maybe I play for Hershey in the playoff. In Russia the season ends February 27th then I can go to Hershey and play.
JR: Do you want to play center or do you want to play on the wing?
EK: Yes center, definitely center that’s where I usually play it’s only on the national team I play wing.
(Kuznetsov takes over as translator for Orlov.)
JR: I read that you are thinking about playing in North America next season.
Dmitri Orlov (via Kuznetsov): Dmitri says that next season he goes to NHL. He plays one year of his contract and then he pays money for one year and the next year we play together in Washington - five Russian guys on the same team.
JR: What do you think you need to improve most?
DO: I need to improve my physical condition, because in NHL the players are both bigger and stronger than the ones I face now. But even in the KHL I feel that most players are older and more powerful then I am and they are also more experienced.
JR: Do you think it will take more time for you to adjust to the smaller ice surface being a defense man than it takes for a forward?
DO: If my team misses the playoffs I want to come to Hershey and play with Egveny. That will help me improve my skills as a defense man and to improve my English. I understand some English but I need to get much much better and I want to hire a personal teacher to improve my English.
JR: How did you feel when your heard your name on draft day?
DO: I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t get picked in the first round but when I heard my name got called up in the second round I was happy. I think I got picked by the right team. American hockey teams don’t draft Russians anymore because of the difficulties between KHL and NHL.
JR: Does it help to have a coach that played the same position as you do? [Dmitri Parkhomenko, Kuznetsov's coach in Traktor Chelyabinsk, was a defenseman in the Russian Super Leaugue before he became a coach]
DO: My coach help me a lot especially when it comes to special teams. It’s great that he gives me enough ice time so I can get better.
JR: When you where at development camp did anyone in the organization talk to you about leaving for North America before you have played out your contract?
DO: I play in Russia for a year or two most probably for a year and then they would prefer that I move to Washington and expect that I play for Hershey.
Some thoughts on the Russian team - first, I was really impressed by Vladimir Tarasenko (taken 16th overall by St. Louis in this past summer's Draft). It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the teams that passed on him (presumably because of "the Russian factor") are going to regret that decision in a couple of years. His offensive skills were as good or better then advertised and he was lightning fast on his skates in the the transition game. He didn’t end up with the C by mistake either. Judging leadership quality merely by observing a player's on-ice performance is, of course, not enough to paint the full picture. Having said that, he did all the little things right - always the first player in when his teammates were "attacked", calling over and talking to the referees at stoppage in plays but not in a excessive/whiny way, etc. And he was going out of his way to talk to players that had done something stupid and had their heads down.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was wearing number 25 and played right wing on the second line, with Artem Voronin at center and Nikita Dvurechenskiy on his left. When Kuznetsov plays for his KHL team he wears 92 and plays center. He did take most of the draws - Voronin was really aggressive in the faceoff dot and got kicked out a lot so Kuznetsov had to step in and did a great job, and won almost all of the draws. While reading up on Kuznetsov I got the impression that he was more of a dangler and an offensive juggernaut but he was used a lot on the penalty kill, both 4-on-5 and 3-on-5, and did a great job.
Kuznetsov had the best hit of the game and he showed some of his boisterous personality when he giggled all the way to the bench after the hit. He likes to set up shop at the exact same spot on the ice near the faceoff dot were Stamkos scores all his goals from. I noticed that he is a bit of a floater so the type of goal he scored in KHL recently was probably not a coincidence. And I’m sure some would get annoyed watching plays like that for a whole season, given that it’s impossible to pick the right spots all of the time. I really can’t complain about it from what I saw because he did it at the right times and almost scored as a result.
Orlov was wearing number nine and played with Yuri Urychev on the first defensive pair. Orlov really showed a willingness to take a hit to make a play - however, I’m a bit concerned that he will take a hit a la Brian Campbell on R.J. Umberger before he learns to keep his head up. He didn’t pinch at the wrong time but he plays aggressively, so I can understand that is something he has to work on. He also took a stupid slashing penalty. And no surprise he had more time on the power play, where he played on the point, then the penalty kill. His skating is good; he had no problem keeping up with a really fast player like Tarasenko and be part of a nice give-and-go play with him that resulted in a goal.