The Vancouver Canucks signed free agent left winger Andrei Kuzmenko to an NHL contract. The details of the contract have not yet been disclosed.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) June 20, 2022
Andrei Kuzmenko Contract Signed, Leaves KHL
Kuzmenko, 26, played solely overseas thus far in his professional hockey career. Born in 1996 in Russia, the winger entered the KHL back in the 2014-15 season. He performed well year after year, but reached new highs in 2021-22. In 45 games, Kuzmenko netted 20 goals and 33 assists for 53 points. That ranked as his first season over the 20-goal plateau, and brought him many NHL suitors.
Kuzmenko also represented Russia on the international stage. With the current political climate, though, those opportunities likely won’t be appearing again any time soon. He joins a young Canucks team excited about their future.
What This Means for the Future
The Canucks experienced quite a “Jekyll and Hyde” year in 2021-22. Their poor start under Travis Green (8-15-2) put the team well behind the pack right away, in a hole that looked unsurmountable. A coaching change followed, and Bruce Boudreau entered. He led them to a 32-15-10 finish, which comes out to a 106-point pace over a full season. While 106 points would’ve been enough for a playoff berth, the 92 they actually accumulated left them five points shy.
Two SKA representatives have been named the best KHL players of December!
Lars Johansson (94.7%, 1.36) is the top goaltender, while Andrei Kuzmenko (5+10) is the best forward!
— SKA Ice Hockey Club (@hcSKA_News) January 3, 2022
Expectations for next year lie more on the Boudreau performance end of the spectrum than the Green end. They want to earn a postseason appearance, and really, they should be at that point in their rebuild arch by now too. Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and J.T. Miller drive the bus, along with RFA Brock Boeser. And they carry Quinn Hughes on the blue line, where they could still use reinforcements.
Adding the top KHL defector to their team only increases their offseason outlook. In what remains a mysterious Pacific Division, Vancouver should be on everyone’s radars. Yes, the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights should be the runaways for the division. However, Vegas showed us this year that simply having a bunch of all-stars doesn’t guarantee postseason appearances. Edmonton wins and loses based on how much Connor McDavid can do entirely on his own. To put it lightly, this division is anyone’s guess, and the Canucks appear to be priming themselves for a big year.