Dmitry Kuznetsov returns as Hat Tricks hit the road

by Jim Cerny, Hat Tricks Insider

As if the Danbury Hat Tricks offense wasn’t potent enough, they added more firepower this week. Dmitry Kuznetsov returned to Danbury after playing two games with Roanoke in the Southern Professional Hockey League.

And the timing of Kuznetsov’s return could not be any better.

The Hat Tricks will be without three of their top nine forwards this weekend when they visit the Carolina Thunderbirds. Leading scorer Dustin Jesseau did not make the trip for personal reasons. Tobias Odjick is having facial surgery. And Evan Lugo is ill.

So, enter Kuznetsov, who was second on the Hat Tricks behind Jonny Ruiz last season with 34 goals, 34 assists and 68 points in 61 games.  

“’Kuzy’ is obviously an offensive threat at this level so we’re excited to have him back,” Hat Tricks coach and general manager Billy McCreary said. “His addition potentially gives us a scoring threat on every line and gives you the ability to overload your top six.”

Kuznetsov gives Danbury an explosive presence on whichever line he plays. The 26-year-old from Russia scored 31 of his goals at even strength last season and tied for the team lead with six game-winning goals. He also had three hat tricks.

With Roanoke, Kuznetsov did not pick a point in two games and had two penalty minutes.

He’ll be asked to play a big role right away, especially with three forwards out of the lineup. The biggest loss of that group is Jesseau. The veteran leads the FPHL with seven goals and 14 points in four games. He also has a league-best three game-winning goals, including one in overtime last Saturday against the Binghamton Black Bears.

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” McCreary said of Jesseau. “In every game he’s been the marked man … and I think he’s responded really well to that. His individual success is impressive but more importantly that’s driving our team success.”

Rookie Luke Richards is second on the Hat Tricks with five goals and nine points. He and Jesseau each tied the franchise record with six points in a 12-5 win against the Delaware Thunder on Oct. 22.

Richards is not the only rookie to stand out early on. Lugo has six points (three goals, three assists); defenseman Brendan Dowler has four assists and is plus-11 already; defenseman Jarod Yau has three assists and is plus-eight; and forward Zach Pamaylaon has three points (one goal, two assists) and two fights to begin his pro career.

“We had high expectations for them,” McCreary explained. “We’re really impressed with the start here from our younger guys. They’ve certainly been driving that train.”

The Hat Tricks are 4-0-0, first in the Empire Division. They’ll play their first road games this weekend, facing the Thunderbirds who are 3-1-0, tied for third in points percentage in the Continental Division.

Brian Wilson will start in goal for Danbury on Friday. He’s 2-0-0 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

“We’re going to ride the hot hand with ‘Willy’,” McCrary said. “And we’ll have to rely on our depth with so many key guys out of the lineup.”