Every year there is a player or two from the KHL that piques the interest of teams in North America. They’re often undrafted talents from smaller Russian cities that may have been overlooked for years by NHL scouts. This year’s edition is Andrei Kuzmenko, who Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports is drawing “a lot of interest.”
Kuzmenko, born in Yakutsk–a city more than 3,000 miles from Moscow–and set to turn 26 in February, is in his fifth full season in the KHL and has 29 points in 26 games for SKA St. Petersburg. In all, the right-shot left-winger has 176 points in 296 KHL regular season games, but those numbers have steadily increased in recent years. While he’s still far behind the league-leading Vadim Shipachyov (another undrafted talent that was once the big name KHL free agent), those 29 points put Kuzmenko in a tie for sixth in KHL scoring.
This isn’t the first time Kuzmenko’s name has come up in relation to the NHL though, teams have been watching him for some time. Back in 2018, his North American agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey told Championat that 24 teams had expressed interest in his client. In the same interview, he spoke about the interest in Ilya Mikheyev and Artem Zub, who subsequently came over and found success. Those NHL scouts will be reminded of him often too, given he has spent time on the same line as potential 2023 first-overall pick Matvei Michkov.
Hugely skilled, there will be no shortage of hype for Kuzmenko should he decide to try his hand in North America next season. Whether he finds success is still to be determined, but there are certainly strong footsteps for him to follow. One interesting thing to consider is whether this hot start will get him onto the Russian Olympic roster, where he could potentially showcase himself against NHL talent.