Kuznetsov: 'I'm ready to play hard hockey'

Kuznetsov: 'I'm ready to play hard hockey'
March 9, 2014, 10:45 am
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In a 12-minute interview following a 45-minute early morning skate on Sunday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex , here, in no particular order and in broken English, is what we know about Capitals 21-year-old prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov:

He likes the cooking of Alex Ovechkin’s fiancé, Maria Kirilenko. That’s a good thing since he’ll be living with Ovechkin for the next month while his wife, Nastia, and Yorkshire Terrier remain home in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

He expects to play on Monday against the Penguins. “I feel good. If coach say I play, I play,” Kuznetsov said, adding he got a full night’s sleep after a long travel day in which he flew from Chelyabinsk to Moscow to Munich to Washington. Kuznetsov also said he's fully recovered from surgeries on his shoulder in September and his knee in December. 

He’s likely to play left wing. During his skate, head coach Adam Oates had Kuznetsov take several wraparound pucks on his backhand on the left wing defensive wall. Kuznetsov predominantly played right wing in the KHL, but said he is comfortable playing all three forward positions.

He wants to win a Stanley Cup. Asked why he finally chose to leave Russia and play in the NHL four years after the Capitals drafted him, Kuznetsov said, “Every hockey player wants to play in NHL, wants to win [Stanley] Cup. I’m ready 100 percent. I want to play.”

He can handle the physicality of the NHL. Listed by the Capitals at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Kuznetsov said he’s ready for the challenge of the NHL’s smaller ice surfaces and heavy hitting. “I’m ready to play hard hockey,” he said. “I’m not really scared.”

He’s ready for the hype. Asked if he feels the pressure of being the Capitals’ most highly touted prospect since Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov smiled. “From who?” he said. “No, I’m excited.”