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The first overall pick in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, Vladimir Kuznetsov had a relatively smooth transition to the North American game and a strong rookie season with the QMJHL‘s Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He put up 23 goals and 33 assists for 58 points in 68 games. However, he found himself shut down in the QMJHL playoffs, as he put up just one assist in the Titan first round loss to the Saint John Seadogs in five games. Its tough to blame Kuznetsov though, as the Titan were a young team who were overmatched in terms of overall talent in that series. Kuznetsov would go on to join a Russian team full of controversy for the IIHF U18 World Championships. As one of the few 18-year-olds on the squad, as the bulk of the team was made up of under 17 players after the Russian U18 team was caught up in the doping scandal, Kuznetsov was one of the leaders of the squad. He finished with three assists in the tournament, as the Russians struggled in North Dakota. Kuznetsov was also part of the 2015 team that won gold at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. Despite sharing the same last name, he is not related to Evgeni Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals.
Vladimir Kuznetsov Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #73
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born February 18th, 1998 — Yekaterinburg, Russia
Height 6’02” — Weight 210 lbs [188 cm / 95 kg]
Vladimir Kuznetsov plays the game like a budding power forward. With the puck on his stick, he’s often looking to drive to the front of the net. He’s also more than willing to cause havoc near the crease when he doesn’t have the puck, looking for a pass out front, for a rebound or for the opportunity to deflect things home. Kuznetsov has excellent size and makes use of it to protect the puck in the cycle game or to win battles along the boards. While Kuznetsov does have decent vision and passing skills; the majority of his assists come from his grittiness and hard work down low. Kuznetsov has a hard shot and a very good release. He can score with his wrist shot off the rush or with shot from the half-boards. He has good hockey sense and makes the right plays with the puck on his stick as well as being able to find soft spots in the opposing team’s defence.
Kuznetsov’s skating is a bit of a work in progress. His stance seems a bit hunched over, and his stride choppy. This robs him of potential speed and acceleration. This becomes even more noticeable when he is skating with the puck. Working with a good skating coach could really help him out as he continues his career. His agility is decent as he can move to avoid defenders, and negotiate his way through traffic. He also has good lower body strength and balance which does allow him to win battles on the boards and to fight through checks.
Kuznetsov’s defensive game suffers due to his lack of speed and quickness. He needs to keep moving his feet to avoid being caught out of position in the defensive zone. He does show good instincts for positioning and using his stick to cut off passing lanes, but quicker attackers can really give him trouble. He works hard in the defensive zone so the thought is that with the improved skating he would be a lot better.
Vladimir Kuznetsov has many of the offensive skills needed to be a power forward at the NHL level, however there are some serious concerns about his skating. If he can work on that, he could be a solid second liner in the NHL. In terms of style, his game is reminiscent of Guillaume Latendresse, however this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill.
The following is a compilation of Vladimir Kuznetsov’s highlights, assembled from youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the #74 prospect on our NHL Draft Board.