Some big news out of the KHL today as Evgeny Kuznetsov — Washington’s first-round pick from the 2010 draft and MVP of the 2012 World Junior Championships — has told reporters he won’t be coming to the NHL for at least two more years.
According to Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov (through SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov), Kuznetsov has verbally agreed to a two-year extension with Traktor Chelyabinsk, the KHL team he’s spent the last three seasons with.
Here’s part of the conversation between Lysenkov and Kuznetsov:
How can you explain this decision? Everyone thought you would join the Capitals next year.
“It’s tough to say. But firstly I really want to make the Olympics. I think we have a very strong team and I will continue to gain more experience and progress with the team. I am not ready to go to the NHL right now.”
So, this is not a question of money?
“We have agreed to all terms [with Traktor], and it’s just a matter of signing a new contract. Signing it is just a formality at this point.”
Did the Capitals’ GM talk to you?
“Well, there were some talks but I will keep it personal [what was said]. Again, the decision has been made. I made the decision myself. I want to play in Russia. And everyone else who didn’t love me when the season ended, maybe they’ll be a little quieter now.”
How did the Capitals react to your decision?
“They don’t know about it yet.”
Only 19, Kuznetsov’s considered one of the best players outside the NHL; the Hockey News recently considered him the top prospect in the world.
In light of this news, one would think the big concern for Washington is Kuznetsov staying in Russia — which it shouldn’t be. Several prospects (Evgeni Malkin, Alex Semin, Artem Anisimov etc.) spent time in the RSL/KHL after being drafted and progressed well.
The big concern is the way this situation played itself out.
If the Caps are indeed learning of his decision through SovSport — and based on how the interview went, they are — it doesn’t say much about the relationship between player and team, or Kuznetsov’s respect level for the organization.
Expect this situation to garner a lot of heat in the coming days.