Latta Off to KHL

Former Capitals player Michael Latta announced via twitter that he will be playing for the Kunlun Red Stars in the KHL this season.

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Latts was released by the Capitals in 2016 and signed with the LA Kings. He was ultimately sent down to their AHL affiliate and has played the last several seasons in the AHL. Most recently he played for the New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate, the Binghamton Devils. He did not receive an offer from an NHL team this offseason.

The Red Stars are a Chinese hockey team which became part of the KHL in 2016. The team is located in Beijing, China. Latta has signed a one-year contract with the team.

Tomas Kundratek, formerly of the Hershey Bears and Capitals is also on the roster so at least Michael will have a friendly face meeting him there. The roster shows six Canadian (including Latta), two Americans, and diverse international representation of players.

Latta told his hometown press he was ready for a change: I’m not going to miss the AHL at all. I was kind of bored by the end of it, playing three years in Washington [for the NHL’s Capitals] and with being sent down, I didn’t get a chance to get back to the NHL.” See the full article below:

The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars

The Capitals are in the position to begin thinking about transitioning their high-performing players to aging under-performing players. And by under-performing we mean players whose stats are on the decline compared to their previous performance or to the performance of newer younger players. Yes we mean Alex Ovechkin in particular.

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Just a year ago we were talking about the maturity of the Caps top line players. At that point we focused on how they had grown as they learned from their mistakes. They had time to hone their hockey skills. And yes, they had matured in their personal lives too, as most of the older players are now married (or in long-term relationships) with children. Today; however, they are the ‘aging’ players whose player maturity will have less impact as they come against younger, stronger, and faster players around the league. Continue reading “The Ovechkin Future: How Teams Deal with Their Fading Stars”

Celebrating Evgeny Kuznetsov: HAPPY BIRTHDAY KUZY

Russian player Evgeny Kuznetzov celebrates his 25th birthday between IIHF World Ice Hockey matches. Team Russia defeated Team Czech in the quarter-finals on Thursday in Paris , France and Saturday will meet Team Canada in Cologne, Germany. Kuzy earned two assists in the game.

Kuzy is a restricted free agent and hopefully in the midst of contract negotiations with the Washington Capitals. His current two-year contract of $6 million with a $3 million annual cap, ends in a few weeks. The Capitals have the option to offer him a better, longer contract or to release him for another team to pick him up. We know, for example, that the KHL would love to have him come home and play. As the Caps management team look at over all salary cap numbers they have to be considering the long-term benefit of a player like Kuznetsov and that means looking at what he has done under the previous contract.

Kuznetsov has been working to improve his game; unfortunately it isn’t evident in his stats this season. In his third full year of playing with the Caps, he dropped from a previous high overall points recorded of 77 to 59. While his goal scoring was pretty static (20 dropping to 19), his assist number dropped 57 to 40. His plus/minus dropped from 27 to 18. His power play production dropped, as did his shots indicating that he has not been contributing as much to the teams scoring chances.

  • One thing for sure is that Kuzy is a valuable asset when it comes to the playoffs. He scored five goals with a total of 10 points overall. These numbers were up from last season’s two points and slightly better than 2015.

And yet, we still love him and have faith that he will improve. Witness what he is doing with his homeland team. We know he is fully capable of being one of the leading contributors to a winning team. He is just one of the players that for whatever reason didn’t seem to have the right scenario for scoring. However, in the coming season he is going to need to create those chances himself, regardless of which line he is one and with whom he is playing.

Kuzy has an irrepressible joy and lightheartedness. He caught reporters off guard when he walked in during the post-playoff life and asked: “Why you act like someone died?”  He takes the game seriously but also has the right ‘move on’ attitude that the team needs to have going into the new season. Evgeny said he likes this team and wants to return. We hope he will.

For more on Kuzy’s hockey journey, check out our post from earlier this year. Click here!

Kuznetsov: The Future Face of the Caps Franchise?

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Every hockey team has its front man; the guy whose jersey everyone wears and whom everyone associates with the success of the team. The Washington Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin. The charismatic, and sometimes controversial, Ovi has been the face of the Caps since his arrival in 2004.

We have watched Kuzy for years, never sure if he would actually arrive to play in the NHL. He has, after all, been a bit of a star hockey player since he was a young boy. He has loving supportive parents who have encouraged him every step of the way. In 2011 the 19 year-old married the lovely Anastasia (Nastia) who is always by his side. He became a father in May 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. He is a solid guy on and off the ice.

Leaving his home was not an easy thing but leaving HC Traktor and joining the NHL and the Washington Capitals was something Evgeny has seemed to want for quite some time. And now that he is here, there is that same sense of magic that surrounded Alex when he arrived. With Ovi now in his 30s and with four seasons left on his contract, he isn’t going anywhere, but the Caps do have the advantage of grooming a replacement for their advertising and we have a chance to love another Russian!

There is that same kind of smirky smile that endears him to us.

There is that same special pointing to the heavens – he too lost a brother at an early age and in the 2005 movie “Hockey Nomad Goes to Russia.” his mother spoke of the impact that had on a young Evgeny as well as the entire family and her son’s accomplishments at such an early age.

 

There is that adorable broken English with the rough edge of a Russian accent. Kuzy reportedly began to learn English even before coming the America. He has said he watches shows like Family Feud to improve his English…

And there is that something different he brings to the ice that makes him standout from the rest. He has that posture, that shot, that winning attitude that a team needs for inspiration.

And there is the potential for Kuznetsov to have the scoring power, although maybe not what we have seen in Ovechkin. He was a Russian star long before he was a Caps star. He was also one of the most talked about players in the 2015-16 season.

We have yet to see his leadership skills but this is a team with a lot of mutual respect for one another and clearly his teammates admire him. He has a great mentor in Ovi and a team that will stand behind him. There is no doubt that he is a rising star.

When it comes to the face of the franchise, we think Kuzy may be it, barring the addition of a new more charismatic player. We know from our own stats, his pictures, next to Tom Wilson, are the most liked and the most retweeted or copied. And that is what you want – someone who is marketable and who also brings home the points night after night.

Unless of course, it is this guy…

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Our thanks to the Russian media and RMNB for some great shots which we borrowed!