Ex-coach Ovechkin already compares Kuzmenko with the great captain of “Washington”

Note that everything you read below has nothing to do with domestic journalism. Yes, we, “Soviet Sport” in particular, love to praise our guys. But strictly to the point and to the point. As well as we will not miss if one of the Russians gives a rooster and let the team down. In short, objectivity is paramount.

All the more striking is the laudatory note in Sportsnet following the results of one – the first! – the day of the Vancouver training camp, which is entirely dedicated to the Russian striker Andrey Kuzmenko. Recall that the coaching staff of the Russian national team, despite the terrible pressure of the media, did not take the SKA forward to the Olympic Beijing. But in Vancouver, everyone is already crazy about the Russian recruit.

Here is yesterday’s ode by Canadian journalist Ian McIntyre in full:

“The most surprising and exciting episode of the opening day of Vancouver’s training camp was not the moment when coach Bruce Boudreau revealed his attacking threes for everyone to see and discuss. It happened when Kuzmenko, the big fish that the NHL team pulled out of the KHL in June, silently listened to a few questions from reporters to his linemate Ilya Mikheev before finally being asked a question.

The two Russians, the new wingers of Canucks center Elias Pettersson, approached the press together on Thursday so that Mikheev could translate Kuzmenko.

But when the turn came to the 26-year-old Kuzmenko, he immediately responded and said in English: “Oh, okay, a few questions.”

Andrey then continued: “Now I am happy. Vancouver is a great city for me. I like to play near mountains, ocean, forest. I love it. The team is good. I’m just happy. It’s very easy for me to play here. Smart partners are with me. Ilya and Pettersson are excellent, hard-working strikers. I do not have any problems”.

Last year’s Canucks rookie Vasily Podkolzin didn’t speak English to local reporters until after the season. The previous Russian, uncompromising defender Nikita Tryamkin, hardly spoke a word of English in public at all. Except maybe “goodbye” before returning to the KHL in 2017.

But Kuzmenko looked like he was ready to star in stand-up comedies or sing karaoke in English! Which we assume he already did, as Andrei is clearly an extrovert who takes life with a twinkle in his eye.

Since moving to Vancouver in August, after the Canucks scammed at least 20 other NHL teams to secure the services of arguably the toughest free agent in Europe, Kuzmenko has been to a couple of Whitecaps football games and a handful of concerts. According to him, he likes Swedish House Mafia the most. I note that these Swedes and my favorites! In addition, Andrei was photographed wakeboarding on Lake Kultus, and he also posted a picture promoting a car deal that the forward had already made with a sponsor.

On Thursday, Kuzmenko finally hit the ice for the first time in North America and shone on a line with Pettersson and Mikheev, a former Toronto player who signed as a free agent with the Canucks in July.

With a height of 180 cm and a stocky build, Andrei is surprisingly fast with the puck on the move. He just exudes personality.

– I agree one hundred percent – this is an exceptional talent, – states the head coach of Vancouver, Bruce Boudreau, who once put Alexander Ovechkin himself into stellar orbit in Washington. – As soon as I saw Kuzmenko on the first day, I said: “If this guy is as good as he is advertised, he will conquer our city.”

Bringing the two Russians into one trio with Pettersson is logical. By the way, we foresaw this. It turned out to be a promising combination of high-class skills.

Pettersson is a gifted striker with an underrated defensive ability. This is a center forward who showed last season that he is able to play with anyone and in any situation.

Mikheev is a born striker, a two-sided winger. Scored 21 goals in 53 games for the Leafs despite being on the third line and the eighth-most powerplay among Toronto forwards.

Kuzmenko is the great unknown. Missing the NHL draft, he spent eight seasons in the KHL. In the last championship, he became the second scorer in the league with 20 goals and 53 points in 45 matches for St. Petersburg.

His puck skills, especially the quickness with which he dodges power moves and landed hard shots with the puck, were evident in Thursday’s practice. Will it be possible to demonstrate all this in the NHL? Who knows.

The Canucks have been frustrated before by highly skilled European players who excel in their national leagues but fail to establish themselves in the NHL. For example, Sergey Shirokov, Anton Rodin, Jonathan Dahlen.

But none of them, to our knowledge, had a mentor as authoritative as Boudreau, who on Thursday described the recruit from Russia as follows:

– I don’t want to draw special parallels, but Kuzmenko’s throw is very similar to Ovi’s throw. Especially from the left flank.

The reluctance of the Canucks coach to make comparisons is easily explained: a sniper who scored 780 goals is unique a priori.

Boudreau also noted that he liked the skill and energy of his new trio:

– They wanted to make a good impression. They succeeded.

All three – Pettersson, Mikheev and Kuzmenko, seem to be excited about their joint debut.

“He’s such a smart guy,” Mikheev says of Pettersson, the 2019 Calder Trophy winner who scored 26 of his 32 goals last season in Boudreau’s last 43 games. – I hope we can use our speed. We need time to play, which we started today.

– I think each of us brings a new aspect to the game of three, – says Pettersson himself. – Mikheev is very fast. He creates space for us, free ice. Kuzmenko and I are probably similar in style. In any case, in the new combination, I feel good.

Mikheev clarified that with Kuzmenko he briefly played together for the Russian national team a few years ago, but none of them remembered when and where it was.

Kuzmenko admitted that he prefers the smaller NHL arena to international arenas, because when “you beat one-on-one, you can immediately shoot on goal.”

“I am adapting every day,” he said. “With every game I feel better and better.

Kuzmenko wears number 96 not because it was the second number in the NHL for Hall of Famer Pavel Bure. Andrey was born in 1996. According to Kuzmenko, his main number – 10 was taken by SKA. Ten is also not available in the Canucks. She was taken out of circulation, since under this number in Vancouver from 1991 to 1998 it was the Russian Rocket that enchanted.

Source: Sovsport

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Peggy McColl

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