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2020-21 Rink Wrap: Evgeny Kuznetsov

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From Backstrom to Wilson, we’re taking a look at and grading the 2020-21 season for every player who laced ‘em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2021-22. Next up, Evgeny Kuznetsov

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Stats:

Regular Season

Playoffs

The Charts:

via Evolving-Hockey
via HockeyViz

The Key Stat: 2.09 5v5 points/60, which is the lowest mark that Kuznetsov has registered since 2014-2015, his first full season in the League.

The Good: At 5v5 Kuznetsov shot the puck about as well as he ever has before, with his ~15% shooting percentage second only the the 16% he put up last year. He also saw a significant decrease in giveaways. According to Natural Stat Trick, year-over-year he dropped his turnover rate from 2.86 giveaways/60 to 1.76, although the tracking accuracy on such stats remains controvertible. Among forwards who played at least 15 games, Kuznetsov had the 3rd highest xGF% on the team, and among forwards who finished the season on the roster, no had had a higher actual GF% than Kuznetsov’s 65.4%, which was a top-25 mark amongst all skaters in the NHL. If you look at any of the shot-attempt based metric, Kuzy came out on the right side of 50%.

The Bad: Starting with the on-ice play, it’s alarming that Kuznetsov put up his lowest point production rate during a year when the Caps were third in the League in that regard. Kuznetsov’s IPP - the percentage of goals scored by the Caps with Kuzy on the ice on which he earned a point - took a nasty dip down to the 55% area. It was the low-water mark of his career, and a stark change in character for the metric - for the last three season’s Kuzy has notched a point on 70% of the goals scored with him on the ice or greater. Also, if we’re going to call out Kuzy’s possession metrics as a positive, we have to acknowledge that the rate at which he received offensive zone draws was a contributor to those numbers. Kuzy took over 17 offensive zone draws per 60 minutes, which is about double what he’s averaged for most of his career, and took 75% of his total draws in the offensive zone. Before this year, that number had never been higher than 59%.

Alright, now let’s talk about the real elephant in the room - the off-ice stuff. Kuznetsov only played in 41 regular season games this year, and missed the first two games of the Caps’ first round series against the Bruins. Apparently, he contracted COVID-19 twice. While we’re certainly not in the business of blaming players for contracting diseases, we can acknowledge that the team has a lot more details around circumstance than we do, and their messaging around Kuzy’s absences wasn’t exactly exculpatory. It’d be one thing if these questionable-at-best off-ice circumstances happened to someone with a clean slate, but Kuznetsov is already skating on thin ice, and the aggregate effect of his on and off ice impact to this point is a statement from his straight-shooting general manager that the organization is open to trading him. Not exactly what you like to see (or hear about) from your nominal top-line center.

The Video:

The Discussion: Does the on-ice performance outweigh the off-ice issues? Is trading Kuznetsov in the best interest for the organization, and if so, what type of return should he command? How much good will does Kuznetsov still have left over from the Cup run with the fanbase? And finally, what would it take for you to give Kuznetsov a 10 next season?

The Vote: Rate Evgeny 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.

Poll

How do you rate Evgeny Kuznetsov’s 2020-21 season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    10
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    9
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    8
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    7
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    6
    (18 votes)
  • 9%
    5
    (24 votes)
  • 25%
    4
    (68 votes)
  • 29%
    3
    (77 votes)
  • 15%
    2
    (40 votes)
  • 9%
    1
    (25 votes)
265 votes total Vote Now