Today I am going to be talking about someone who needs little to no introduction. If you’re a Wings fan, or really anybody who pays close attention to prospects, you’ll know that in 2015, the Detroit Red Wings selected big-bodied, highly skilled Russian winger Evgeny Svechnikov in the 1st round with their 19th overall pick. Unless you pay basically zero attention to up-and-coming talents, you might also know that Evgeny has a younger brother, Andrei. Much like his brother, Andrei is very good at hockey. In fact, his brother is so good it would take a miracle for him to fall outside the top 3 in June. Further, he is so good that there are murmurs and whispers that he could become the best Russian-born forward since Ovechkin/Malkin. At worst, he is probably the best Russian forward we've seen since Tarasenko, Kucherov, Panarin, and Kuznetsov. One thing is for certain: Svechnikov is hands-down, indisputably the best forward in this draft, and a very good consolation prize if you miss out on Rasmus Dahlin.
For many of you who read my articles, or listen to what scouting organizations have to say, this probably doesn't come as a surprise to hear. He may have already been on your radar for quite some time now. He has been on my radar since shortly after the Wings drafted his brother, during the 2015-2016 season. What had caught my attention, in particular, was that he was scoring at an ungodly pace in the Russian U16 league. Just how ungodly are we talking, you ask? He scored 31 goals and 22 assists in 13 games. You don’t need to get your eyesight checked. You read that right the first time. To give you some semblance of an idea how that compares to his peers, Svechnikov’s U16 season broke an all-time P/GP record in the Russian U16 league. From the moment I heard about him, I knew we were dealing with somebody that will probably be getting taken in the top 3 in June.
Svechnikov came over to North America last season, where he posted an impressive 29 goals and 29 assists, and was a +29 in 48 games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks as a 16-year-old. His performance last season earned him the USHL Rookie of the Year Award, and he finished the season 3rd in the entire USHL in P/GP. After this impressive showing, Svechnikov took his talents to the U18s, where he finished tied for 3rd in tournament scoring with 4 goals and 5 assists in 7 games. Svechnikov was then selected 1st overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft by the Barrie Colts, where he has been playing this season. As a 17-year-old in the OHL, Svechnikov has started this season off scoring goals at a torrid pace, and currently stands 6th in the OHL in points, and 2nd in goals, with 10 goals and 4 assists in 10 games. Unfortunately, he has recently broken his hand, and will be expected to miss the next 8 weeks recovering. It is doubtful whether this will affect his draft stock. I personally do not expect him to go outside of the top 3, and would be shocked, in fact, if he even fell to 3rd overall. Further, even though he has been injured recently, the chances of him being able to play at the World Juniors are still very high, as he is expected to recover shortly before the tournament starts, so scouts will get an excellent opportunity to appraise him further at the tournament. Over the course of this article, we are going to delve in-depth into what kind of player Svechnikov is, and why two Svechs would be better than one.
Name: Andrei Svechnikov
Date of Birth: March 26, 2000
Birthplace: Barnaul, Russia
Current Team: Barrie Colts
Weight: 187 lbs
NHL Comparable: Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa
Future Considerations: 2nd
ISS Hockey: 2nd
Svechnikov is blessed with a very enticing combination of elite-level skill and excellent size. Standing at 6’2” and 187 lbs, he is a powerful skater with great footspeed, and is surprisingly shifty for his stature, able to burn laterally, juke, and fake defenders to create open ice for himself like a much smaller player. He is very strong on the puck, able to protect it while in full flight through traffic and along the boards. He is a beast along the boards, and is able to use his size to his advantage to get better real estate in the offensive zone in the dirty areas of the ice. He can beat defenders in any number of ways, be it with his finesse and stickhandling abilities, or with his sheer power. He possesses electrifying skills with the puck, and his one-on-one moves make him lethal in close when it’s just him with the goalie.
Offensively, Svechnikov is a fantastic finisher. He has an elite-level release, and very good arsenal of different shots that he can beat a goalie with. He is dangerous from just about anywhere you can think of in the offensive zone. He releases the puck quickly, and gets incredible velocity and accuracy on it, which allows him to pick his spot effortlessly. Giving him an opening to shoot one-on-one with a goalie is a death wish for any defender. Equally impressive are his hands around the net in close. He shows so much patience with the puck, and has excellent awareness of the play unfolding around him. He plays with his head on a swivel, and is able to make intelligent split-second decisions with the puck.
Svechnikov’s ability to set up his teammates is remarkable, even though he’s more of a shoot-first player. He finds seams and soft spots on the ice to deliver the puck to his teammates, able to pass the puck to where he anticipates his teammates being on a consistent basis, which often leads to generating scoring chances. There are moments where it almost seems like he has eyes on the back of his head, able to land a no-look pass right on the tape of his teammate, often resulting in either a scoring chance or a goal. He has that killer instinct that you love to see in the offensive zone. When he doesn’t have the puck, he forechecks hard to force defenders to make errors and cough the puck up. He is always thinking of ways to get his team on the scoreboard, and is always hungry to make an impact.
Overall, if there is a better offensive forward in this upcoming draft, I have yet to come across them. The kid is an offensive magician, and easily the best goalscorer in this draft. Every time I’ve watched him, he’s looked flat-out dominant, and for a young, offensive-minded winger, his two-way play is quite developed. The foundations of his game are excellent, and the sky is the limit for Andrei. Should he pan out with his development, he could become one of the best offensive wingers in the NHL one day.
By The Numbers
To truly appreciate how good Andrei Svechnikov is, it also helps to look at how Svechnikov has performed against his own peers. I have taken the liberty of compiling data from the 2016-2017 USHL season, and visualized it using the matplotlib library in Python. The following scatterplot below is the result of compiling the 5v5 scoring data for all forwards up to the age of 21 in the USHL. Note where Svechnikov is on this plot.
In short, Svechnikov was among the league leaders in 5v5 scoring, in both goals and primary assists, as a 16-year-old. The only forward prospect eligible in this draft year to score goals at a faster pace than Svechnikov was Joel Farabee, but Farabee played significantly fewer games than Svechnikov did. When we take sample size into account, Svechnikov led the entire USHL in primary points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time as a draft -2 player.
Just in case you were foolish enough to think that was a fluke, here’s how Svechnikov performed in the OHL compared to all forwards who have played at least 5 games, before breaking his hand this month:
While this is a small sample size, and Svechnikov’s assist numbers have been worse than they were in the USHL, Svechnikov was leading the entire OHL in goals/60 at 5v5, scoring at an astounding 3.35 goals per 60 minutes of ice time. He has been so good that he’s 5th in the entire OHL in primary points per 60 minutes, and has been scoring at a faster pace than the majority of players that are older than him in the league, including first round picks from the 2017 draft like Nick Suzuki. While it would be unreasonable to expect him to continue scoring at such a torrid pace all season, particularly after having to have hand surgery, one can expect him to score goals in bushels.
Video Credit: RHV - YouTube
Video Credit: bigwhite06 - YouTube
Video Credit: AM34 - YouTube
Video Credit: The Canadien - YouTube
Video Credit: AM34 - YouTube
Video Credit: AM34 - YouTube
As much as I would love the Red Wings to acquire a defenseman or a center next June, make no mistake. If Andrei Svechnikov is on the board and Rasmus Dahlin is gone, it’s a no-brainer who you pick. If you’re the Red Wings organization, or are just a fan of the Red Wings, the prospect of uniting the Svechnikov brothers should be something that excites you if things go particularly sour this year. Svechnikov will inject a massive dose of elite-level skill and firepower into any team lucky enough to get to pick him, and could prove to be a very good answer to teams looking for someone who can score goals in droves as a solution to their anemic offense. Whether he ever lives up to the hype surrounding him or not, Svechnikov is without a doubt poised to make a significant impact on any organization that drafts him.
Anyways, that’s all I had to say today. When I return next, I will be discussing another Swedish defensive prospect you should be keeping an eye on, Brynäs IF’s Adam Boqvist. Until then, stay tuned!