Player agent Dan Milstein informed VHN just after noon on Thursday, that he and his client Andrei Kuzmenko, the highly touted Russian free agent forward, were boarding a flight in Edmonton en route to meet with the Vancouver Canucks.
Travel considerations and other factors have delayed Kuzmenko’s ‘NHL tour’. Originally a decision on what NHL team he would sign with was expected by now. It’ll be at least another few days, as TSN reported that the coveted KHL’er will meet with at least two American based clubs following his Canucks visit.
“He’s the top free agent out of Russia,” Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford told Vancouver Hockey Now back on May 28th. “And he’s a really good player, and I would think with his skill set, he’s gonna become a really good NHL player.”
It’s hard to say whether or how much his many relationships with Russian teammates, former KHLers now in the NHL, like Vancouver’s Vasily Podkolzin, will factor into his decision making. The two played together in St. Petersburg for two-plus seasons as recently as the 2020-’21 season.
Kuzmenko’s four year deal with SKA St. Pete’ ended this spring as he finished as the second leading scorer this season in Russia’s top Kontinental Hockey League. He had previously spent four seasons with perennial powerhouse CSKA Moscow.
It’s been his stated intention to move to the NHL in 2022, with Milstein telling VHN last month that Kuzmenko has been preoccupied with preparing for the opportunity. Kuzmenko is a right-shot playing the left-side, call it the ‘Alexander Ovechkin obsession’, a tendency popular with many Russian wingers.
The off-wing Kuzmenko is 26-years-old and has tallied 64 total goals over his last four seasons, hardly an “Ovie” rate, but one that has peaked the interest of NHL managers. It’s expected Kuzmenko will depart Friday following his interactions with the Vancouver Canucks.