It’s no secret that the Capitals have cornered the market on drafting Russian players other teams are scared to because of the Kontinental Hockey League and concerns about signing a contract and reporting. It worked out with Dmitry Orlov being willing to come to North America and with Stan Galiev, who’s now in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
And general manager George McPhee hopes the same is true with winger Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Caps’ 2010 first-round pick at No. 26 overall.
“To find good players at the end of the first round is hard,” McPhee told The Washington Times this week. “… He’s going to be a heck of a player.”
The 19-year-old is in the early stages of lighting up the KHL this season with five goals in nine games for Chelyabinsk Traktor. Last season he had 17 goals and 15 assists in 44 games.
Kuznetsov underwent shoulder surgery in April and decided to spend another season at home in Russia. But McPhee knows the 19-year-old is ready – whether it’s now or next year.
“He’s a guy we could’ve made room for. But when we interviewed him two years ago, he really felt that he wanted to play two years at home. And I didn’t mind that because we haven’t had teenagers in the lineup very often,” the GM said. “I’d rather have them develop a little bit someplace else – either in Hershey or in junior or in college or in Europe – before we stick them in here.
“I was fine with him staying over there for two years, but we’d like to have him next year.”
Kuznetsov is a high-scoring wing who might make up for the production, one day, of Alexander Semin. The Russian wing is about to start another one-year deal.
“I don’t think either party was ready to get into a long-term deal,” McPhee said about Semin. “We wanted to see how things went, and we want to see how things go this year.”