Last month, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates traveled to Russia for the first time to visit captain Alex Ovechkin, a five-day trip that allowed Oates to immerse himself in Ovechkin's world.
While there, Oates also rendezvoused with the Capitals' top prospect, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, taking a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Moscow to Chelyabinsk to do so. While there, the two had dinner twice, and Oates watched the 21-year-old play two games for Traktor of the Kontinental Hockey League.
"I've never seen him play and just there's a chance he's going to be playing for us," Oates said Friday. "I wanted to, kind of a goodwill thing just to let him know that we care. Just a chance to watch and experience some more hockey over there.
"Super nice kid. We talked hockey. We talked about the games I just watched. It was good. Real good experience."
The Capitals' first-round draft choice (26th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft, Kuznetsov has yet to appear in Washington minus participating in that summer's development camp. His current contract with Traktor expires at the end of the season and the Capitals hope that their prized prospect, currently sidelined for four to six weeks with a shoulder injury, will finally make his long-awaited NHL debut before the end of the 2013-14 season.
"He's a talented man, no question," Oates said. "It's hard to tell. You don't want to judge the hockey because it is different, they play a different style, but you can see that he's a very talented man.
"I know he's anxious. He wants to test himself with the best, is what he said, which is a huge compliment. Obviously, he's thought about it because he's well taken care of over there. He wants to see how he can do in our hockey."
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