Birthday: October 31, 1996
Birthplace: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia
Drafted: 19th overall, 2015
We open the top five with a very exciting prospect in the big Russian forward Evgeny Svechnikov. After being drafted by the Red Wings in the first round of the 2015 draft, Svechnikov returned to his junior team (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) and put up almost identical numbers (32 goals/47 assists) to his previous season. He also had a solid playoff run with Cape Breton putting up 4 goals/11 assists in 13 games before joining the Grand Rapids Griffins as a Black Ace during the 2016 AHL playoffs (including playing in two games). Last season was his first as a pro, as is often the case with young players coming out of the QMJHL, he had a bit of a difficult time adjusting to the play early on in the season. As the year progressed however he began to show more and more of skill and ability that made the Red Wings draft him in the first place. He finished the 2016-regular season with 20 goals/31 assists and even earned himself a cup of coffee two game stint with the Red Wings late in the season (where he scored the winning shootout goal in his first game).
Strengths and weaknesses
When you watch Svechnikov it is not hard to see why the Red Wings and their fans are so high on his potential. He might not have had the same level of production Anthony Mantha did in juniors but he is every bit the goal scoring threat. Where a lot of the Red Wings other top prospects rely on their skating ability to open holes and create chances, Evgeny has a nack for finding the soft spots on the ice and a wrist shot to find the net when he gets the puck there. While he is far from poor on his skates, Svechnikov relies more on his size, positioning, vision and understanding. On top of that he has that innate ability it seems every good goalscorer has where the puck just always seems to find a way onto his stick. From a weakness standpoint, Evgeny has a tendency right not to struggle with impacting a game on nights when he does not get on the score sheet. Within an organization like the Red Wings where they demand every forward play a 200 foot game or else risk not playing, I suspect if there is any delay in his progression to the big club this will be the main reason.
While he absolutely could hold his own in the NHL, all signs point to Svechnikov starting the season out in Grand Rapids. While I would rather see him in Detroit personally, it could behoove Chevy long term to start out with the Griffins this year where he can continue to polish up his game as well as begin to pick up larger role with the team on and off the ice. Long term he is easily a prototypical power forward type and should be a fixture in the top six for the Red Wings. It should not be a stretch to see him becoming a perennial 25-30 goal a season scorer and after watching the Red Wings struggle to score goals the past few seasons that would be a very welcomed sight.