It is a big day for UConn hockey, as sophomore defenseman Yan Kuznetsov has been drafted by the Calgary Flames with the 19th pick of the second round and 50th pick overall of the 2020 NHL Draft. Kuzentsov was the seventh NCAA prospect taken in the second round of the draft and ninth college player overall.
Kuznetsov had an impressive first season with the Huskies, earning 11 points and blocking 20 shots over 34 games played in the 2019-20 season. Two points that season came from goals with the rest coming from assists on scoring. Kuznetsov scored his first collegiate goal against Rensselaer Polytechnic and then scored again against Miami University of Ohio later that season.
Before coming to UConn, the defenseman played a season in the United States Hockey League with the Sioux Falls Stampede, playing a 34-game season with them in which he earned four assists. He was also a member of the Russian U-17 national team when it competed in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in New Brunswick, helping the team to its fourth goal medal from the WHC. Kuznetsov was also named to the WHC All-Star team after his performance. During the 2017-18 season, he was a member of the Russian U-16 team when it competed in international junior games.
Coming into the draft, Kuznetsov’s rankings were all over the place:
NHL Central Scouting: 28th among North American skaters
Bob McKenzie at TSN: 61st
Future Considerations: 95th
The Hockey Writers (Bell): 87th
The Hockey Writers (Fisher): 82nd
The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 70th
Most scouts told a similar story when asked about Kuznetsov. He was a solid all around defenseman but didn’t put up numbers high enough to make him a must-have pick. He is extremely young, being the only U-18 defenseman in Hockey East last season, so not a whole lot was expected out of him. His performance was quite surprising last season, however, with him surpassing a lot of expectations scouts had for him.
Congratulations to Kuznetsov and his family. I am sure the entire UConn community is excited for him and will watch his professional career with great interest.