“I know Kuzmenko really well and believe he is good signing by the Vancouver Canucks.”
Start there. That’s Janne Vuorinen, the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s Chief European Scout since 2007.
“Andrey is a creative player with noticeable puck skills and fine skating.”
That’s Artem Yanchenkov, who works for the bureau in Russia.
We’ll share what these two men agree upon independently, and then a couple of knocks against Andrey Kuzmenko, who announced on Monday that he’s coming to play for the Vancouver Canucks next season.
“He is strong player close to the boards, stays on the puck really well and can create scoring chances really well in 1 vs 1 situations,” Vuorinen wrote. “He has a good shot and puck skills. Strong on his skates, but could improve his pace.
“For me he has been one of the better players in the KHL last couple years and best older NHL prospect since Kaprizov left to NHL,” Vuorinen concludes.
Kirill Kaprizov played six years in Russia’s top Kontinental Hockey League before departing in 2020 at age-23 to join the Minnesota Wild, going on to win the Calder Trophy in 2021 as NHL rookie-of-the-year. He followed up his initial 27 goal, 51 point season with 47 goals and 108 points this past one, good for 5th most in the NHL.
Kuzmenko, age 26, is not considered Kaprizov’s calibre.
“Owns a good wrist shot,” Yanchenkov goes on to say. “Kuzmenko has good offensive hockey sense, which is proved by his impressive stats (20+33) in 45 KHL games last season. Can give a good pass but tends to do the job on his own. At times, however, he seems to be carried away by individual play, which leads to the offensive losing its momentum.”
That comment is self-explanatory. It’s a characteristic we’ve often heard describing Russian players during World Junior Championship tournaments, “too much individual play.”
Fortunately it’s an issue easily remedied by maturity and coaching.
It’s Vuorinen’s comment that makes one think. “could improve his pace.” Speed can also be remedied or improved by coaching and technique, but only to a certain degree.
Ultimately Kuzmenko will keep up with the play at the NHL level, the adjustment will come with the physical play in close quarters on the smaller ice surface. NHL rinks are 15 feet narrower than the Olympic-sized rinks in Europe.
One would expect to hear good things from Vancouver Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin, who has followed the player’s exploits for years and will officially sign him in July.
“I have been watching Andrei since his 2014.15 season and have been impressed with his development and improvement on the ice,” Allvin said in the Vancouver Canucks press release. “Once the contract details are finalized, we look forward to welcoming him to the Canucks organization and helping him continue to grow as a hockey player.”
It’s expected Kuzmenko will earn around $1-million for a one-year entry-level contract, once it’s officially signed after July 13th.
“All in all, Kuzmenko is a player with a good set of assets, who is ready to compete for a role in the big team in the NHL,” Yanchenkov added. “He has proven much, if not everything on the KHL level, and I think has earned his chance to try himself with the Vancouver Canucks. I think he will succeed if he shows enough character and will – the rest is definitely there.”