Washington Capitals: Five Bold Predictions For 2015-2016

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Kuznetsov Will Emerge As A Young Star

Evgeny Kuznetsov struggled to make adjustments early in his rookie season. He only had 15 points in 44 games before the All-Star Break. Over the break, something clicked for the young Russian center because he finished the season with 22 points in his 36 games after the All-Star break. He grew confident. He started taking charge. He shined in the month of March with 10 points in 14 games. He finished his regular season with 37 points in 80 games. Not bad from a rookie center.

Kuznetsov finished last season very strong. He introduced himself to the rest of the NHL with seven points in 14 playoff games. Many people view him as a breakout candidate in 2015-2016. They’re not wrong. Kuznetsov will build on his rookie season and finish the season with at least 45 points.

He’ll start the season playing with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie. That should give him a jumpstart to his season. He played quite well with the first forward line during the preseason. Once Nicklas Backstrom comes back, Kuznetsov will slot back to his usual second-line center role. He’ll have either Marcus Johansson (coming off a career year) or Andre Burakovsky as his left wing. Both of them are solid second-line options. On his right, he’ll have three-time Stanley Cup champion Justin Williams.

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The one area of his game that Kuznetsov consistently struggled with during his rookie season was puck possession. Having Troy Brouwer as his second-line right wing most likely played a big role in that. Williams is famous for being one of the best possession players in the league. Kuznetsov should greatly benefit from playing alongside Williams.

Kuznetsov is ready to take the next step for the Washington Capitals. The Caps have been patient with him. He’ll make them look smart for sticking with them with a breakout season in 2015-2016.

Next: How Many Goals Will Oshie Score?