A rekindled love of the game fueling Kuzy's All-Star season


While the All-Star game is meant to be a reward for the players selected, not all of them view it that way. Some want time off to travel or spend time with the family. Others just want time to rest. But for Evgeny Kuznetsov, he's excited to go to Las Vegas for this year's event.

"I feel like sometimes player says they don't want to go there, right?" Kuznetsov said. "But in back of their heart, they kind of believe they're ready. If they having a good season, they want to get the credit for that, right? I'm happy that I'm going there."

Kuznetsov was added to the all-star roster on Sunday for the Metropolitan Division team, replacing injured New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox. The event, consisting of the skills competition and 3-on-3 tournament, will take place Feb. 4-5.

Kuznetsov's inclusion in the event reflects how much he has rebounded from a lackluster 2021. His excitement, reflects how he got there.

"We need more fun on the ice, more skill," Kuznetsov said. "I feel like a lot of players have a skill but you know they’re afraid to do something because the guys will make jokes or coaches will be hard on them because it’s all about wins, it’s not about like show who you are in the game."

In 2021, Kuznetsov was limited to 41 games. He scored nine goals and 29 points. He was twice added to COVID protocol and suffered symptoms in January that kept him out of the lineup for a month. When he did return, there were real questions about his motivation that led to trade rumors in the offseason. Those questions are now gone.


"He's been one of the consistent ones," head coach Peter Laviolette said. " ... Certainly we've gotten a lot of production and he's a big part of that. He came in in great shape, he's had a fantastic year to date and it's nice to see him get rewarded and go to the All-Star Game."

Through 42 games this season, Kuznetsov has 13 goals and 43 points. There seems to be a real joy for the game that is fueling his play, something that was clearly missing last season.

"He's definitely kind of back having fun," Tom Wilson said. "You can tell with him when he's chirping you, when he's loud and all that, it's a good thing because it means he's having fun."

Even when talking about the All-Star game, Kuznetsov was having fun. He said the only bad part was having to go with teammate Alex Ovechkin who, "I was hoping to stay away from him for couple days."

When asked what parts of the skills competition he would participate in, he answered, "Probably nothing. I don't have a lot of skills."

That playfulness will be on full display over the weekend for the All-Star events.

As the All-Star Games have no bearing on the season or the standings, the effort for some players is not always present. That should not be a problem for a colorful character like Kuznetsov who sees the all-star events as just another chance to enjoy playing hockey.

"Every time you get selected there, it's pretty fantastic," Kuznetsov said. "I believe it's going to be good couple days so you get to know some people and be around some good players so it's always nice to spend a couple days like that."