Who is leading the Washington Capitals right now? I wonder. I open the Capitals' homepage, look at the player stats, and do a double take. That Russian - again? I thought that ended in the beginning of the season when he had a hot streak. No, not Alex Ovechkin, but yes, Evgeny Kuznetsov.
As of now, Kuznetsov has 15 goals and 33 assists, giving him 48 points, good for four better than Nicklas Backstrom and six more than countryman Alex Ovechkin. On top of that, he is seventh in the league in points, fourth in assists, and second in plus-minus. On the team, only Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams have more goals than him, and he is 46th in the league in goals, and that is only because of ties.
Looking at Kuznetsov, it is not his ability to hit or shoot that makes him so good. Rather, it is his ability to skate so well, it looks like he's not even moving, and his skillful ability to puckhandle.
So, believe in him. These breakout performances last playoffs were not a fluke. This guy is capable of becoming one of the best players in the league, and I think he will be by 2020, if not already. As coach Barry Trotz said about him in October - "He’s not afraid of the big moments. He’s not afraid of the top players in the league. He wants to be one of the best guys in the game, and I think he can be." And its not just the coach, fellow teammates have said it as well. He has the ability to be a top-five player in this league. With the amount of poise, skill, and commitment to getting better, it’s amazing to watch him every day," says Braden Holtby, one of the best goalies in the game.
Kuznetsov truly is a breakout star in his own right. Keep watching his and I think that after Alex Ovechkin retires, he will become the Caps' next Alex Ovechkin.