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This Russian Superstar has to be a Top Target for Blackhawks in Free Agency

Andrei Kuzmenko (No.96) of SKA Saint Petersburg in action...
Andrei Kuzmenko (No.96) of SKA Saint Petersburg in action... / SOPA Images/GettyImages
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The Blackhawks need more offensive firepower in the top-six. Maybe their track record will bring Andrei Kuzmenko to Chicago.

The Blackhawks look to be interested in KHL superstar Andrei Kuzmenko, who is widely regarded as the top forward in the KHL. And for good reason.

This season, Kuzmenko has come into his own, recording 53 points in 45 games (at the time of writing this article) for the powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg hockey club. His skating looks to be crisp, capable of making moves at top speed WHILE maintaining the puck, protecting it from the defender. His stick handling also looks CLEAN, but I'm sure we will learn more about him as he makes his way to the NHL this offseason. Watching some of his shifts, his skill level is eye catching as, while I doubt that he will, as many have before me, become the "Next Artemi Panarin", his offensive abilities should cause him to be an impactful player for whatever lucky NHL franchise signs him.

Kuzmenko has decent size at sightly over 5'11", 194 lbs (converted from 181 cm and 88 kg from the KHL website). Though he won't be physically imposing, his role in the NHL wouldn't be about playing physical hockey a la Jujhar Khaira and Ryan Carpenter but rather play a skilled game like Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat. His speed and puck control, as mentioned earlier, makes him an issue to deal with on the rush and his shot makes him an issue if he's the recipient of a pass on the rush. Either way, he's a problem in the transition game.

That being said, there is not much known about his defensive abilities as everything I saw was in the offensive zone. Though he has a positive plus/minus rating (goals for vs goals against while the player is on the ice) of +15, that stat could be misleading. Until we can see him play in the defensive zone in the NHL, I can't make my final conclusion, but it looks VERY promising.

Regardless, the Blackhawks should make a move for Kuzemenko. Their top-six forward group is not where it needs to be to contend, or at least are not playing up to their potential. The stars have to step up and make more plays happen with will rather than just sit back and hope it works. Though Kuzmenko COULD be a liability in the d-zone, the Blackhawks already have many of those, even a couple on defense. If he plays even close to his reputation, the Blackhawks will be a better team next season.

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