Capitals F Kuznetsov ready for NHL debut
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Newly signed Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov is set to make his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.
A crowd of about 50 gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Sunday to watch as the 21-year-old Kuznetsov skate for 40 minutes with head coach Adam Oates and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
He went through a brief shooting regimen and performed a few drills along the boards before signing autographs and speaking to reporters.
“Every hockey player wants to play in the NHL and wants to win the (Stanley) Cup,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s my dream to play in the NHL.”
Kuznetsov was a first-round draft pick by the Capitals in 2010. He played five seasons for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL.
He has long been considered one of the top prospects in the world and joins the Capitals in a playoff race. Washington is one point outside the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Every guy on the team wants to win the Cup — wants to play playoffs,” said Kuznetsov. “I watch every guy yesterday (vs. Phoenix). Everyone wants to win every game, every time, every minute.”
Since being drafted, there was some uncertainty as to whether Kuznetsov would ever leave Russia for the Capitals. The young phenom terminated his contract with Traktor on Thursday and flew into Washington on Saturday to sign a two-year, entry level contract.
General Manager George McPhee indicated on Saturday the plan was to insert Kuznetsov into the lineup on Monday.
“Are you coming to game Monday?” Kuznetsov said. “I feel good. If coach (says) I’ll play, I’ll play.”