Frozen Pool Forensics: Evgeny Kuznetsov

by Cam Robinson on January 22, 2016

Evgeny Kuznetsov is producing at an elite level with and without Ovechkin.

Let’s start by saying this: If you haven’t had a chance to read Evgeny Kuznetsov’s contribution to The Player’s Tribune, you need to get on that. Pretty much everything on that site is worth a read, but his portrayal of life as a young hockey player growing up in Russia is an illuminating look into how that ‘other’ hockey-crazed country works. They skate and they focus on skill. Those are two elements that Kuznetsov is showing an abundance of in this, his sophomore campaign.

 

For years the hockey world awaited the great white Russian whale. Drafted by the Washington Capitals 26th overall in the 2010 entry draft, Kuznetsov teased Caps and fantasy owners alike with his tantalizingly slick play-making ability and equally deft goal-scoring prowess during the World Junior Hockey Championships as well as the World Cup. Four long years passed and then finally North America got its first good long look at Kuzya.

 

His performance mimicked that of countless young players first settling into the NHL; he showed glimpses of his supreme talent but struggled to perform every shift. It was during last season’s playoffs that the hockey community saw what was possible if this young man put it all together. He scored five goals and seven points in 14 playoff games and looked every bit the part of second line centre on a contending team.

 

This season is a whole different story. Through 46 games, Kuznetsov has 15 goals and 48 points to go along with a plus-25 rating. He has been a major contributor on arguably the league’s most complete and dangerous team, and sits fifth in league scoring.

 

Taking a look at his most frequent line mates and production combinations using Dobber’s Line Production Tool, we can see that Kuznetsov has performed equally well both with and without Alexander Ovechkin on the ice. 24 of his points are with the Ovi, 24 of his points are without him. This stat should not be overlooked. The fact that Kuznetsov is driving possession and producing at better than a point-per-game rate with Andre Burakovsky, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams as his most frequent line mates is spectacular.

 

Total Points for Evgeny Kuznetsov : 48

Str

On Ice Line Combination

Points

%Total
Points

EV

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

8

16.67%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J. – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

8

16.67%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

4

8.33%

PP

BACKSTROM,NICKLAS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J. – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

4

8.33%

PP

CHIMERA,JASON – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

3

6.25%

PP

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J. – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

3

6.25%

PP

CHIMERA,JASON – GALIEV,STANISLAV – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

2

4.17%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILSON,TOM

2

4.17%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

2

4.17%

EV

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY

1

2.08%

EV

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILSON,TOM

1

2.08%

EV

CHIMERA,JASON – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILSON,TOM

1

2.08%

EV

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J.

1

2.08%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

PP

CHIMERA,JASON – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

PP

BACKSTROM,NICKLAS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

PP

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – LAICH,BROOKS – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

1

2.08%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

1

2.08%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN – WILSON,TOM

1

2.08%

 

 

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

29.26%

EV

JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

25.49%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J. – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

15.55%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

3.43%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – JOHANSSON,MARCUS – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY

2.48%

EV

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

2.17%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J.

 

Further digging into Kuznetsov’s Player Profile, shows that he is currently converting on 15.2 percent of his shots; nearly double his conversion rate from a year ago (8.7 percent). This number is likely to regress due to his lack of shot volume and the infrequency of players shooting at such a lofty pace. With 99 shots on the season, he is pacing for 176 – a total which is usually outside the top-100 for that category. That said, his five-on-five shooting percentage is ticking along at 10.3 percent which is about right for his career thus far.

 

The big question when it comes to Kuznetsov is whether or not he can supplement Nicklas Backstrom as the team’s number one centre and assume the plum assignment next to Ovechkin. Having Backstrom certainly complicates things when trying to pinpoint a ceiling for the young Russian pivot, but it is also a great problem to have for the Caps. Backstrom has been one the most underrated superstars of his generation. He is a constant point per game player and has a strong two-way presence; those two ingredients will serve well in mentoring Kuznetsov. Not to mention that they look pretty darn good together on the league’s top power play. However, barring a team slump or injury, don’t expect Backstrom to cede his number one position on the depth chart just yet.

 

Seeing over four minutes more per game than his career average, Kuznetsov is earning the trust of his coaches and peers as he rises up the NHL scoring list. Expect him to continue to put up points in bunches as his 14 multi-point games have been a testament to this season. It’s a fun year to own Capitals’ players and we may just see someone other than Ovechkin lead Washington in scoring. A feat we haven’t witnessed in over a decade.

 

Projected point-per-game pace for the remaining schedule: 0.9 – 1.0

 

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