Andrey Kuzmenko’s skill behind the net can help boost the Canucks’ power play units
Photo credit:Instagram via @kuzya_096
By Faber4 months ago
The Canucks finished last season with the ninth-best power play in the league — clicking at a 23.5% success rate.
Finishing ninth in the league was on the backs of their strong first power play unit and now with the addition of top European free agent Andrey Kuzmenko, they may be able to find more production from their second unit as well.
For a couple of years now, the Canucks’ second power play unit has been about shot volume and funnelling pucks to the net at the highest rate possible. There hasn’t been much rhythm to the second unit and Kuzmenko may be able to provide a new look that helps open up the bumper position while opening up the ice for shooters to find better scoring chances.
You see, Kuzmenko has a true strength on the power play, and it comes from his work below the goal line.
Kuzmenko is great at making the quick pass into the bumper spot. Perhaps the second unit will find some success for the former teammates if Vasily Podkolzin is patrolling the centre of the ice on that unit. Kuzmenko can also make the cross-ice pass from his forehand side behind the net and that could open up scoring chances for a left-shot, right half-wall player like Nils Höglander or Tanner Pearson.
His view of the ice and ability to anticipate one-timed shots is a big strength in Kuzmenko’s power play production. He has good hands and his deception with where he’s looking compared to where the pass goes makes it hard for defenders to get a stick on his passes.
That five-assist highlight clip package up there isn’t a full season of work from Kuzmenko either. He was an excellent distributor on the power play and his work behind the net should find him a spot on at least the Canucks’ second unit this fall.
Here are five more examples of his work behind the net this past season in the KHL (one clip at five-on-five).
Kuzmenko has built a pretty remarkable montage for Bruce Boudreau to go through and decide how to use him on the power play.
We will see how the power play units shake down but if Kuzmenko can even have a portion of the success that he had in the KHL, he will be an impact player for the Canucks when they have a man advantage. It would surprise us to see Kuzmenko get a chance on the first power play unit but if the five-man group is slumping and needs a new look, Kuzmenko helps provide another option. If he transitions to the NHL with ease, his work below the red line could bring back memories of Tyler Toffoli in that position for the Canucks during the conclusion of their 2019-20 season.
All in all, there’s clearly a strong point in Kuzmenko’s power play profile and the Canucks should look to lean into his strengths and see if the addition of the Russian winger can help bring an identity and some rhythm to a second power play unit that has lacked scoring over the past couple of seasons.
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