When rookie prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov stepped on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the first time since signing his first NHL contract, a smattering of cheers echoed off the walls.
About 50 Capitals fans sacrificed an hour of sleep on Sunday to witness Kuznetsov’s 8 a.m. skate with head coach Adam Oates and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. Caps general manager George McPhee and director of amateur scouting Steve Richmond also watched from the Caps’ bench.
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After a warmup skate, Oates had Kuznetsov take pucks off the wall on his backhand, a clear indication the 21-year-old forward will play left wing when he takes the ice for the Capitals, presumably on Monday night when the Caps take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center.
Following the Caps’ 3-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night Oates said he would monitor Kuznetsov’s energy and limired knowledge of the NHL game.
“He doesn’t know this hockey, right?” Oates said. “We don’t want to put him in a situation he can’t handle right now. But in saying that, if we can spot him in the lineup it could be a nice spark for us.”
Following Kuznetsov’s early morning 45-minute skate, he signed autographs for fans and returned to the Caps’ locker room.
More reaction coming.