SUNRISE, FLA -- There was a lot of speculation on what the Red Wings would do with the 19th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. There wast talks of trading down to get a 2nd round pick, and thoughts about acquiring a defenseman to help bolster the Red Wings glaring need on the blue line. As the first round progressed, we saw a lot of names drop due to unexpected names being taken early on. As the Red Wings geared up for their name to be on the clock, they certainly took their time. As I sat there and watched the table basically stand still after witnessing general manager Ken Holland on and off the phone through the first 18 picks, the Red Wings brass made their way to the stage to make their pick.
With the 19th overall pick, the Red Wings selected Russian forward Evgeny Svechnikov. Svechnikov sets a milestone for the organization as being the highest Russian-born draft pick in club history. The 18-year-old Russian is listed as a winger, but has been playing center with his team Cape Breton in the QMJHL. In his rookie season, Svechnikov put up 78 points in 55 games and was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team.
When asked who his favorite Russian player was growing up, he did not hesitate with his answer: "Malkin," he said. Oddly enough, many scouts have compared his style to that of the Pittsburgh center.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">"What do you know about Pavel Datsyuk?" "...Magic" <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RedWings?src=hash">#RedWings</a> Evgeny Svechnikov <a href="http://t.co/La9bdsDd98">pic.twitter.com/La9bdsDd98</a></p>— Kyle M (@KyleWIIM) <a href="https://twitter.com/KyleWIIM/status/614608938303143936">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Just an amazing feeling, best moment in my life. Best day in ever. All my parents, all my agents, and Russian friends. Everyone is here supporting me. I appreciate it so much. I cannot thank everyone enough.
The newly-acquired Red Wings prospect was certainly in a bit of awe, I could tell. Sitting there with the Winged Wheel on his chest, answering questions to CHL, NHL, and Russian media. When asked about how important it was for him to come to North America, Svechnikov spoke a lot about how it will help him get to the NHL quicker:
It's very important to me, because I want to play in the NHL. Obviously it's a big difference between the Russian hockey and the Canada hockey. Everything is quicker on smaller ice, lots of hits. I like that game.
As I said before, Svechnikov is the highest Russian draft pick in Red Wings history, when I brought that up to him, he had no idea how to react:
Wow, I did not know this. I feel uh, amazing. Great! This is best time for Russian hockey, and I think this was a really really good [first] round for us.
Svechnikov went on to state how much he enjoyed being interviewed by the Red Wings during the combine. "They love Russians there," he said about Detroit. We sure do. When he was brought to North America, Svechnikov spoke very little English, but his teachers in Cape Breton expressed a lot of patience and helped him adapt to the North American culture.
Of course a lot of questions revolved around Pavel Datsyuk, and how it feels to be on the same team with the Russian superstar:
Probably, he show me some skill stuff. Some magic stuff, I can't believe it. I can skate with him, and the feeling is like impossible but I hope that I can make my dream there.
Evgeny Svechnikov wishes to be at the Red Wings prospect development camp. He spends his summers training in Montreal, so he will surely be in attendance to all of the Red Wings offseason events to start his development into a future NHL forward.
I had this guy in my list of players I wanted Detroit to take for a couple of months now. He's a big-bodied skill player who can skate with the best. The multi-faceted Russian forward will become a valuable asset to the Red Wings hockey club in very short time as he develops into what I think he will end up being: An elite-skilled possession monster.