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2014-15 Rink Wrap: Evgeny Kuznetsov

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From Alzner to Wilson, we're taking a look at and grading the 2014-15 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2015-16. Next up, Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Clyde Caplan

Japers' Rink Player Card (click for a hi-res version, and a glossary of terms used in this post can be found here; data via NHL.comwar-on-ice.comGeneral Fanager and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Kuznetsov card

Kuznetsov linemates

Kuznetsov usage

Kuznetsov's Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (2013-15):

Kuznetsov rolling CF

Kuznetsov's HERO Chart (via Own The Puck):

Kuznetsov HERO

Kuzenetsov's 2014-15 Season (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com; click to enlarge):

Kuznetsov HA

Previous Rink Wrap: 2013-14 (7.21 rating)

Key Stat: Kuznetsov led the Caps in five-on-five primary assist rate and was second in that metric while on the power-play, evidencing his playmaking prowess..

Interesting Stat: The newest Russian Import registered at least one shot on goal in all fourteen playoff games - Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson were the only other players to fire the puck with such regularity during the second season. Kuznetsov averaged three shots per playoff contest, with a single game high of seven shots on goal in Washington’s Game 5 victory over the New York Islanders (registering two goals and an assist).

The Good: The 2014-2015 was Kuznetsov’s first full professional season in North America and he certainly reminded everyone why he was selected 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Expected to carry a good portion of the secondary scoring, Kuznetsov put up 37 points in eighty games under Barry Trotz’s direction. As the season progressed Trotz began using Kuznetsov with more and more regularity, a comfort which eventually saw him get promoted to second-line center before the the start of the new year. Kuznetsov took advantage of the additional time on ice and began producing more, posting four of his five two point games after the switch.

Kuznetsov was already trending in the right direction when the regular season came to its close and he continued his strong play through the end of April and into May. Jason Chimera, his winger for all fourteen postseason games, matched his career best playoff output skating alongside Kuznetsov at center. The second pivot was Washington's best forward in several contests, across both series, and matched Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward for the most points tallied in a single playoff game (3).

The Bad: This year was Kuznetsov’s least productive professional goal scoring season since his career began with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Traktor Chelyabinsk in 2009-2010. His eleven goals through eighty games had him averaging only one goal roughly every seven games (although this is an entirely different league). He did enjoy a bump in production during the playoffs, so there’s still hope that Kuznetsov can steer his NHL career a little closer towards Ovechkin’s rather than Marcus Johansson’s.

Halfway through the season Kuznetsov was playing much better North American hockey (after spending five years in the KHL), an improvement that coincided with his move to center ice. He was much more possessive of the puck and played a tougher game along the endboards, qualities that must continue improving in order to produce in the NHL. I'm sure Washington's brass would like to see ~60 points from their now anointed second line centerpiece. Another summer of training with the Capitals' staff should empower Kuznetsov to be even more assertive with the puck on his stick and deliver on next season's increased expectations.

Kuznetsov's possession stats also left a lot to be desired, though he was just about break-even with his most frequent linemates, Johansson and Troy Brouwer.

The Video:

The Vote: Rate Kuznetsov below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Discussion: Kuznetsov's first full season in Washington went well no matter who you ask - player, teammates, coach, or GM. Next year will be his second full season in the NHL and Kuznetsov will look to further develop as a second line center. He will also be looking to play a larger role on the man advantage unit. What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

Kuznetsov
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