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Author: Alessandro Seren RossoDate: 10/26/2009
Ak Bars Ė Traktor: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andrei Popov (Philadelphia Flyers) evaluation

2010 Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

In the 10/20 match between Ak Bars Kazan and Traktor Chelyabinsk we followed two prospects playing for Traktor, two players at different stages of their career. They are 2010 eligible Evgeny Kuznetsov and 2006 draftee Andrei Popov (Philadelphia Flyers).

Evgeny Kuznetsov played an interesting game. Considering his age he played very well, even if he lacked of some intangibles that needs to work on in order to build a career for himself. An extremely talented player, he is very useful in the offensive zone because of his excellent technique. He can get easily on the scoresheet, but weíll see that he has much to work on.

In the gameís first period he has been active, getting a score chance after two minutes with his good stickhandling, but international Swede Mikael Tellqvist saved his attempt. Playing on the third line with veteran Ravil Gusmanov and the other youngster Igor Velichkin he logged an interesting 14:02 TOI. When he has been iced against Ak Barsí top line, his line struggled, but not too much. He displayed good movements without the puck as well as strong skating, and a focused defensive play, at least in the gameís start. Heís by no mean a physical player, mostly because of his size, but despite many other young Russian players, he doesnít escape from the boards play, in a similar way displayed by Dmitry Kugryshev (Washington Capitals) in his early career.

In the second periodís start he had the brightest chance of his game, winning a puck along the boards and presenting in front of Tellqvist with the puck on the blade, but once again he couldnít get it past the goalie. As said, if he manages to control very well the puck, he struggles a bit in the own third. With the home team pushing searching for the tie breaker, Kuznetsov has been more busy in the defensive part of the game rather than the offense and it showed as his rushes became rarer and rarer. The third period was probably the worse one: not only he didnít manage to break up offensively, he struggled more in the own third as a result of the home teamís pressure (they were down by two goals after a double by veteran Pavel Boichenko) and it ended up in allowing the 1-2 goal by Dmitri Kazionov (Tampa Bay Lightning): he didnít work hard on defense and allowed a shot to Medvedev, which was deflected in by Kazionov. He was probably a little bit tired as his line was a tad overused in the third periodís start. In the overtime he wasnít iced and Traktor ended up losing this game 3-2 after an overtime goal by Alexei Morozov (Pittsburgh Penguins).

Overall he played an interesting match. He displayed all his strong features, excellent technique, flawless skating and lack of fear along the boards, but it was also possible underlining his limits: defensive play and lack of forechecking efforts. But at this stage of his development he clearly looks like a first round candidate, he might even be considered for the WJC despite his very young age.

The other player we saw, Andrei Popov (Philadelphia Flyers), played in the second line with Canadians Ramzi Abid and Pierre Dageneis. This line is without a true center and thus he needed to stood up in some cases in the faceoff dots, where he acted well with a 57.1% of success. Heís grown a lot in the last period. He likes playing the puck, but he rarely exaggerates and playing as center gave him a further gear in defensive play, in which he doesnít excel, but has become more reliable. He also played on the PK units and he was on ice during the last two PP goals by the opponents. If in the OT goal he could have done little (his team was on a 3-on-4) he might have checked harder the opponents in the slot in occasion of last minute Niko Kapanenís goal. Overall, he logged a total 19:04 TOI and looked very well, despite the zero in the scoresheet. During this season he has already amassed 14 points in 19 games.

Related Player Profiles: . D.Kazionov D.Kugryshev E.Kuznetsov A.Morozov A.Popov I.Velichkin
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