There’s clear cut reasoning why the Vancouver Canucks would want to add right-shot forward Andrei Kuzmenko to their roster. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that the Canucks and Edmonton Oilers had interviewed the 26-year-old free agent and that Vancouver’s head coach Bruce Boudreau was part of the process.
Know this, while Boudreau takes his time in deciding on his option for next year in Vancouver, he’s still under an active contract with the hockey club. The two concepts, this season, next season, are mutually exclusive at the moment. He’s obligated to carry out any responsibilities for the time being and has until June 1st to (re) commit to furthering his deal.
There are other scenarios and potential opportunities for ‘Gabby’, but returning to Vancouver remains the most likely and logical.
That said, the parties appear impressed with Kuzmenko. Blame it on Alexander Ovechkin if you’d like, but more than any other nationality it seems Russia is full of righties playing the left side up front. This “Koozie” would be another example.
Then again, Boudreau was pretty fond of American Conor Garland’s late season efforts for the Vancouver Canucks doing the same thing. It’s not just Ovie-trendy, it tends to open up better shooting angles and lanes as opposed to playing one’s strong side. In a power play situation what’s not to love; picture Oveckin, Steven Stamkos or Brock Boeser in the left wing face-off circle.
This isn’t to suggest he couldn’t play the right side because the Canucks could absolutely use some depth and potential upside there. A right-handed center would be nice, but that’s a different story.
In Kuzmenko’s case, there’s a lot of other positive elements at stake. He’s not a bank-breaker, he’d be making his first foray from the Russian KHL into the NHL, so affordability enters into it.
Kuzmenko’s played the last four seasons with SKA St. Petersburg, two of those years with current Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin. Yes, ‘Pods’ has improved his English over his first season here in impressive fashion and adapted pretty well, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a countryman and chum around with whom to work some magic.
Linemates or not — Kuzmenko was the KHL’s second leading scorer in the regular season this year — it would be good for communication and development.
Undrafted by an NHL club, Kuzmenko is coming off his best year of eight spent in the Kontinental Hockey League. He tallied 20 goals and 53 points in 2021-’22, numbers that were two better and 16 better than his previous career highs.
He spent his first four pro seasons with CSKA in Moscow after growing up in the far flung, eastern Russian town of Yakutsk.
Some media reports out of Russia last month suggested the winger is favouring the Oilers, but that was before the Canucks had their say. The ‘Pods’ factor could be a powerful one. There are no Russians on the Edmonton Oilers active roster.
North American outlets have suggested Kuzmenko will be talking to at least two more NHL clubs.