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2016-17 Rink Wrap: Evgeny Kuznetsov

From Alzner to Winnik, we're taking a look at and grading the 2016-17 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2017-18. Next up, Evgeny Kuznetsov.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Japers' Rink Player Card (click for a hi-res version; data via NHL.com, Corsica.hockey and Cap Friendly):

Kuznetsov's Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Kuznetsov and His Linemates (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Kuznetsov's 5v5 Teammates and Competition (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Kuznetsov's 5v5 Usage (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Kuznetsov's With-or-Without You (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Kuznetsov's Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (chart by @muneebalamcu):

Kuznetsov's Four Seasons (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Kuznetsov’s Goals Against Replacement (GAR) Components (chart by @ChartingHockey, data by @DTMAboutHeart, explained here, Tableau here):

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

Key Stat: Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded 10 points in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, five times his total from the previous postseason.

Interesting Stat: Kuzy’s 3.15 Individual Scoring Chances For/60 were the second-highest among Washington forwards.

The Good: Evgeny Kuznetsov was, once again, indisputably one of the best Russian forwards on the team. I’ll let that bombshell sink in.

But in all seriousness, what is Kuznetsov’s ideal role on this team, class? “Create plays for his teammates with his excellent hands,” that’s right. Extra recess for everyone. To that end, Kuznetsov continued to pull his weight on the Capitals.

He tied Alex Ovechkin for the second-most Primary Assists/60 (0.79) and Primary Assists (15) among forwards on the team, meaning the patented Kuzy Twist© was in full effect once again. On the other side of these sexy Russian connections, Kuznetsov improved his goal scoring, too. His Goals/60 jumped from 0.57 to 0.79 this season, an improvement of 27% year-over-year. That’s thanks in large part to his shined-up even strength shooting percentage, which came in at a fully respectable (and importantly, sustainable) 11.28% in 2016-2017. Consider that he had a Tom Wilson-esque 7.75 shooting percentage (good for fourth-worst among forwards) in 2015-2016, and the offensive prowess is obvious. Obviously, everybody’s shooting percentage increased this season (thanks, Presidents’ Trophy-caliber offense!), but Kuzy’s shooting went from Wilson-level to Backstrom-level.

The Bad: As good as Kuznetsov’s Primary Assists/60 were, they represent a Cliffs of Moher-level drop off from last season. This year’s rate fell a full 55% from last season, when Kuzy’s 1.45 clip was the second-best in the entire NHL. This year? Well, the Caps only have one player in the top 50, and that’s Nick Backstrom tied for 40th.

This is largely attributable to Kuznetsov’s relegation to the 2nd line, away from this year’s twin 30-goal-scorers T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin. One explanation for a diminished rate of assists is a diminished rate of scoring and finishing at the other end, and, well....ain’t nobody in the world accusing Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson of being the scorers that Oshie and Ovechkin are. Of course, the other explanation is that Kuznetsov simply did a poorer job setting up his wingers. This may be a ¿por que no los dos? situation. The fact that Backstrom didn’t come anywhere close to Kuznetsov’s results while centering the same line this year suggests that Kuznetsov did regress in his playmaking just a hair, but only because he had such a ridiculously successful year last season. It may be little more than a slight regression towards the mean, or it could mean that the Capitals are going to get tricked into paying Kuznetsov way more than he’s worth this offseason thanks to a $6 million statistical radar blip.

Also not a great sign is that Kuznetsov’s Shots/60 fell this season from last season. Look, I’m not going to bore or berate you with reminders of all the times you went hoarse and blue in the face from yelling SHOOOOOOT IT, KUZY!! at the television screen this season and these playoffs. I don’t need to, because I can already sense the white-hot rage of recollection welling behind your eyeballs. It was hard to fault Kuznetsov for opting to pass when he centered T.J. Oshie and Alex-freaking-Ovechkin. This year, between the decided more earthbound Williams and Johansson, Kuzy actually shot less per 60 (6.97) than he did last season (7.35).

Kuzy more than redeemed his lackluster playoff performance in 2015-2016, scoring 10 points this postseason as one of just three Caps to break double digits (Oshie, Backstrom). Distressingly, however, Kuznetsov’s even strength Corsi For% relative to his teammates dropped from +1.2 to -0.6. Considering nearly the entire team’s Corsi For% improved in the playoffs (damn Penguins, how did you win??) the fact that Kuzy did not step up his possession game as much as his teammates is disappointing. Your star players have to play like stars - good enough, or not quite, just ain’t gonna cut it against Pittsburgh.

The GIF/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: Did Kuznetsov continue to develop at the rate you had hoped? Are you comfortable with Kuznetsov being one of the “New Young Guns” and presumed faces of the franchise? Do you like the “eagle” celly? What sort of contract would you offer Kuznetsov this offseason? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

Other Kuznetsov Season Reviews: Peerless

Poll

How do you rate Evgeny Kuznetsov’s 2016-17 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    10
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    9
    (12 votes)
  • 17%
    8
    (28 votes)
  • 32%
    7
    (52 votes)
  • 24%
    6
    (38 votes)
  • 12%
    5
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    4
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    3
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    2
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (1 vote)
158 votes total Vote Now