It's been years of "will they, won't they," but the Washington Capitals announced the club has finally signed top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov to an entry-level contract Saturday. The 21-year-old forward has been lighting it up in the KHL since he was selected 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
It's been a dramatic roller coaster over the last four years, but the highly-anticipated arrival of Kuznetsov is near. He will join the Capitals soon and wear No. 92.
Injuries derailed his season this year with Chelyabinsk, his hometown team, and contributed to Kuznetsov missing the cut for the Olympic team. It was long rumored that Kuznetsov wouldn't come to the Caps until after the 2014 Olympics to ensure he would make the Russian team. After he did not, it seemed his NHL arrival was inevitable.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound center posted 146 points in 210 games with Chelyabinsk, including 21 in 31 games this season. In order to join the Caps, Kuznetsov's contract with Traktor had to be terminated, which it reportedly was earlier this week.
Kuznetsov has been dynamic on the international stage. He was the MVP of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship after posting 13 points in six games and helped Russia win WJC gold in 2011.
The song and dance with Kuznetsov has been fuel to the fire about the risk in drafting Russian players, but this prospect has the kind of skill that's worth waiting for.
And it has been a rather long wait for Capitals fans. While Kuznetsov may not be the savior for their season, he will be a breath of fresh air and just having him in the lineup will make a lot of folks in D.C. breathe a sigh of relief, including general manager George McPhee.
Here's a glimpse at what he's capable of.