The Carolina Hurricanes finally were the recipients of some good fortune on the night of the NHL draft lottery. Instead of sliding down a slot or two which has happened at times in the past, they moved up from the 11th position to number two and perhaps it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The Buffalo Sabres own the first pick and they seem almost obligated to select the top-rated defenseman in the draft, Rasmus Dahlin. The team is in need of a top tier blueliner and Dahlin has been called a possible “generational” pick.
That leaves Carolina with the option of the next best player available and all signs point to Russian sniper, Andrei Svechnikov.
Svechnikov has been given accolades by scouts from everywhere and most say he is NHL ready right now. He possesses the rare combination of speed, power, and skill.
One site which should know this player well is OHL Prospects and they had this and much more to say:
His ability to drive the net and gain inside positioning on defenders off the rush is among the best I’ve ever seen in the OHL. He’s just so powerful. The shot is NHL quality already too. He’s so strong on the puck and even with defenders draped all over him, he can manage to get great power behind his wrist, snap, and backhand. But Svechnikov plays just as effectively east/west as he does north/south.
His creativity, puck skill, and vision are all top notch. He’s actually a very good playmaker who has that innate ability to read defensive coverages to know when he should dish off or finish his drives himself. It’s what makes him so dangerous because defenders have to respect his passing ability, which in turn gives him the time and space to dominate.
I think the part of Svechnikov’s game that doesn’t get enough credit is his defensive game. This guy has great awareness in all three zones and is (mostly) willing to use his size and speed to engage on the backcheck. There are times where his defensive focus could be a bit more consistent, but I think he profiles as a solid two-way player in the NHL. I really think this kid is NHL ready and he could be a 30/30 player in the NHL next year.
Steve Kournianos is one scout who has placed Svechnikov even higher than Dahlin. In his analysis for the Sporting News he notes that the Russian has outscored NHL stars Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane during 5-on-5 action in their draft seasons.
While Dahlin was being feted in the press, Svechnikov was scorching through a historic OHL season not seen in well over two decades and still flew under the radar. For starters, he was the first player in history to win the USHL and OHL rookie of the year awards in consecutive seasons. Granted, not many players jump from one league to the other, but an impressive feat nonetheless.
According to prospect-stats.com, Svechnikov also had the highest estimated goals-per-60 minutes of any Canadian Hockey League draft prospect between 1998 and 2018. Although these are estimates, as the leagues do not post official time-on-ice statistics, his numbers at even strength for a pre-draft power forward are impressive nonetheless.
With 30 even-strength goals in just 44 games (2.71 eG/60), Svechnikov in his draft year filled the net at a higher clip than Sidney Crosby (2.60), Patrick Kane (2.55) and Connor McDavid (2.34).
Additionally, Svechnikov’s 5v5 goals-per-game average of 0.68 was the highest in at least two decades of any Ontario Hockey League player in his first draft year. That means neither McDavid, nor Kane, nor Taylor Hall, nor Steven Stamkos, nor John Tavares buried the puck at a greater clip than Svechnikov.
Now having said all of this, there is still risk when drafting an 18-year-old.
Could he eventually turn into a bust like Nail Yakupov or Pavel Brendl? Anything is possible but as much as both of those players were CHL scoring legends, Yakupov wasn’t known as a two-way player and Brendl was certainly never a fitness freak.
What gives Svechnikov a higher probability of success is that in addition to being a skilled, high-scoring, two-way player, he is also a hard-worker off the ice.
He had a very good showing at the NHL Draft Combine.
Out of the 104 participants, he placed 6th best with a scant 7.71% body fat percentage.
He tied for 2nd best in the Pro Agility test, (Right time).
He was tied for 2nd best in the FMS Total Score fitness test.
He finished at 10th in the Squat Jump and 8th in the No Arm Jump.
He placed 7th in the Bench Press, (50% body weight).
Svechnikov is obviously no stranger to the gym and at 6′ 2 and 190 pounds, already has an NHL ready physique. He has a work ethic which should translate to success at any level.
The Russian comes from humble beginnings and it is hard not to root for him and his family. Sportsnet has a great article about his background.
On Friday night, the Hurricanes could drastically change their future with this pick. They could be choosing a new face for the franchise and perhaps a new superstar for the league.
The last time the Canes chose at number two, they selected Eric Staal. The 2003 selection is still the leader in many franchise scoring categories. Perhaps a replacement will be coming soon.
Svechnikov won USHL rookie of the year honors after scoring 29 goals and 58 points in 48 games in 2017.
He won rookie of the year honors in the OHL with his 40 goal, 72 point performance after just 44 games in 2018.
Will he make it three-for-three in 2019? I would not bet against him.