I’m unbelievably high on what Barry Trotz can do for this team so let me start off by clearing that up. Two young men who are in the lineup for tonight’s season opener are going to reap the rewards of having a veteran coach, who for one of the first times in his career actually has a talent filled lineup and a chance to do damage with it.
Surrounded by a mix of talent and veteran leadership, Evgeny Kuznetsov is back for his second tour of Washington after joining the team late last season. Kuznetsov has 17 NHL games under his belt already but is looking to do damage at the North American level after posting impressive numbers since his teenage years in the KHL. Slated to start the season on the fourth line, I don’t see that being a permanent spot for the 22 year old. Trotz’s wing-pairing combinations allow the fluid transition to jump between lines for centers such as #92 as eventually I would expect to see him higher role. Although it could be a surprising energy line, being flanked by Liam O’Brien and Chris Brown (Run It!) probably will not produce the same results as being beside guys who can crash the net and bang home rebounds like Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. Kuznetsov needs the freedom to work and if he can dazzle by someone and put a shot on net the big guys should be there. I think potentially that could be the best spot for him to flourish in terms of the current forward pairings. We shall see if Trotz likes his in-season play opposed to his preseason.
If it’s not going to be Kuznetsov who has a strong season, it’s (hopefully) going to be the 19 year old from Austria, Andre Burakovsky. Burakovsky, a natural winger, is in a better position right off the bat to succeed with his spot as the second line center. After beating out Kuznetsov for the spot, the full-fledged rookie will open the season skating aside Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer. Trotz has high praise on the 2013 first round pick, stating his poise and competitive instincts have landed him where he is currently slated in the lineup. The biggest battle for the young buck that he will likely face this season is the fact that he’s going to have to out-play Kuznetsov on a nightly basis to hold down his current spot. A downside and obviously early elimination from RoY talks would be a slow start and a demotion to Hershey. Granted it would mean first line minutes but Trotz hasn’t been shy about having all the youngsters get acclimated to the NHL.
Both men are just an injury or awful team start away from a lineup adjustment that could potentially land them in a spot skating beside Great 8, something that I also believe will happen sooner than later. I personally am looking forward to watching the both of them develop and wish them nothing but the best. Seize the moment.