Evgeny Kuznetsovflashed his talents again at the world junior championship in December and January and The Hockey News ranked the 19-year-old forward as the top overall prospect in the world.
The Washington Capitals hoped to have him in the NHL next season. But they won’t, if a report out of Russia Wednesday that he has decided to stay in the Kontinental Hockey League is to be believed. KHL-TV’s Igor Larin reported that to be Kuznetov’s statement in a televised interview.
Kuznetsov has said repeatedly in other interviews with Russian media outlets that he was waiting until this summer to announce his decision. His team, Chelyabinsk Traktor, is still in the playoffs. Kuznetsov had 19 goals and 22 assists in 49 regular-season games this year.
The Caps declined comment about the report. Kuznetsov’s North American agent, Jay Grossman, did not immediately reply to an email seeking confirmation or comment.
Washington general manager George McPhee said in late December that he’d like Kuznetsov to come to North America for the 2012-13 season.
“He should be here next year, yeah. He’s ready to play here,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re not playing at the highest level you can develop some bad habits, and you don’t want that stuff to become ingrained. So get him to the best league we can.”
Kuznetsov, who was the 26th pick in the 2010 draft, would need to sign an entry-level NHL deal but could receive much more money in the KHL.