Evgeny Kuznetsov is finally a Capital.
Nearly four years after selecting him with the 26th pick of the 2010 NHL draft the Capitals have agreed to terms with an entry-level contract believed to be for two years and $1.8 million.
Kuznetsov, 21, played in 31 games with Chelyabinsk Traktor of the Kontinental Hockey League this season, recording 21 points [eight goals, 13 assists] and 12 penalty minutes.
Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov was teammates with Kuznetsov for the 2010 and 2010 World Championships and described Kuznetsov and a “good guy” and a “good player.”
“He can score, he can pass,” Orlov said. “On the big ice he’s a good skater.”
Asked if Kuznetsov reminds him of any other NHL players, Orlov couldn’t think of any.
“Hard to say,” he said. “He likes to make plays. Sometimes he maybe makes more moves than he needs to. He tries to make beautiful plays.”
With AHL call-ups Chris Brown and Ryan Stoa on the roster the Caps currently have $1.28 million in salary cap space, enough to add the $900,000 needed to add Kuznetsov for the remainder of the season.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound center ranked fourth on the team in points and assists. Kuznetsov led Chelyabinsk in scoring in each season from 2010-13 and finished tied for sixth in the league in scoring (44 points) last season. Kuznetsov was named to the KHL All-Star game in 2012.
Kuznetsov represented Russia at the World Junior Championships three times [2010, 2011, 2012], earning a gold medal in 2011 and a silver medal in 2012. During the 2011 tournament, he recorded 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in seven games, including three assists in Russia’s 5-3 win over Canada in the gold medal game.
Kuznetsov finished tied for second in the tournament in points and was named a First Team All-Star. Kuznetsov served as captain of the Russian team at the 2012 World Junior Championship. He recorded 13 points [six goals, seven assists] in six games and collected First Team All-Star, Best Forward and Most Valuable Player honors at the tournament.
In 210 career regular-season KHL games with Chelyabinsk, Kuznetsov has recorded 146 points [65 goals, 81 assists] and 124 penalty minutes. The Chelyabinsk, Russia, native was drafted by the Capitals in the first round, 26th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Kuznetsov will wear No. 92 with Washington.