Evgeny Kuznetsov is a skilled player in many ways, but one aspect of the game in which he struggles is on the faceoff. But are his issues at the faceoff dot just a matter of never getting coached?
Kuznetsov has consistently struggled on faceoffs in each of his eight NHL seasons. For his career, Kuznetsov has a win percentage of only 43.7% He has never finished a season over 50%. His best season came in 2015-16 when he managed to win 47.8% of his draws.
To put it bluntly, that's abysmal for a center. He's not a wing taking a handful of faceoffs when his center gets kicked out, he's a center. Part of his job is taking faceoffs.
But it's hard to do anything well in the NHL if you never get coached on it.
The Capitals hired Michael Peca as a player development coach on Feb. 10 and one of his duties was to work with the centers on the faceoff.
That was a big deal for Kuznetsov.
"I never had the coach who explain how I supposed to play in the faceoff so that was nice to have him," Kuznetsov said Wednesday after winning eight out of 16 faceoffs against the Boston Bruins. "He show a couple videos, he explain what I should do in some situations and I feel like it's really help me. I'm just learning that part and I'm excited that we have a guy like him."
Before Peca was hired, the Caps ranked 27th in the NHL winning only 46.7% of their faceoffs. Since he was hired, the team has won 50.6%.
Individually, Kuznetsov has improved as well. He went from winning 41.3% of his draws up to 45.4%.
You still could not label Kuznetsov as a faceoff specialist, but that is a fairly large improvement.
When your faceoff percentage is that bad, it affects how the team can utilize a player and his line. Kuznetsov has struggled to such a degree that it has been a source of frustration among fans. Now with some coaching, however, we are already seeing signs of improvement.