Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Position: Right Wing
Age on Draft Day: 18.3 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6’2, 188 pounds
2017-2018 Stats (including playoffs): 52 GP, 45 G, 38 A, 78 PIM, +11
NHL Central Scouting: 1st (North American Skaters)
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 2nd
Craig Button (TSN) (March): 3rd
ISS Hockey: 2nd
HockeyProspect.com (March): 2nd
The brother of 2015 Detroit Red Wings’ first-round pick Evgeny, Svechnikov is an offensive dynamo who can help a team put the puck in the net in a number of ways. His 45 goals in 52 OHL games paint a clear picture; he can score. What’s exciting, though, is the number of ways in which he can do so. Like all snipers, he has a strong wrist shot and a deceptive release that goaltenders struggle to pick up on even when they have full sight of the incoming shot. With the puck on his stick, he absolutely rips wrist shots. When he’s the trigger man, there is very little lag time between his receiving of a pass and quickly whipping it on net.
However, unlike many scorers, he’s not only a finisher who sets up around the circles. Rather, he can create his own shooting opportunities and score from different offensive zone situations. He has great speed and creates transition chances. He uses his size as leverage along the perimeter and in corners to win the puck and power to the net front. If given the chance to gain speed down the wing, he will lower his shoulder and absolutely blow past defensemen after two quick steps before using his strong wrists to power pucks past goaltenders from in close.
An interesting part of his game that I’ve noticed is his use of quick pivots to lose defenders. He’s very good at making clean, quick changes in direction. Particularly behind the net. And again, in these moments he has enough inertia to power his way to the net front and either score or create havoc.
As a result, you have a player who scores goals; lots of them. Here is how Svechnikov ranks against the top 17-year-old goal scorers in the OHL since the 1999-2000 season.
The names on this list speak for themselves. The only guys who out-scored Svechnikov are surefire Hall-of-Famers, and he’s a lot closer to them than he is the rest of the group. There are some serious names - Mitch Marner, Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, etc. - that he absolutely blows out of the water.
Make no mistake, Svechnikov is a shoot-first forward. However, he is perfectly capable of playing the role of playmaker as well. Opposing players understandably worry about him lighting the lamp. He is very good at taking advantage of the extra attention bestowed upon him and finding a teammate in a dangerous position. He’s not at the level of elite playmaking wingers like Patrick Kane or Mitch Marner, but it is a respectable component to his game. More-so than for pure scorers such as Jeff Carter and Patrik Laine.
Svechnikov a nightmare to defend because of his versatility. He’s big, fast, strong, and has a dynamic shot. He’ll score from the all areas of the ice with a heavy wrist shot, by accelerating down the wing, or by gathering the puck down low, putting his head down, and driving towards the net. If you swarm him in an attempt to close off his opportunities, then he’ll move the puck to open teammates and happily collect the potential assist. There are very few defensemen with the skillset to deal with him one-on-one.
Russian wingers are often saddled with concerns of being lazy, soft, and/or defensively irresponsible. Often, these “red flags” are exaggerated. In Svechnikov’s case, it’s not even in the ballpark of sanity. I usually hate comparing players from the same countries because they’re often lazy stereotypes, but it’s hard to see some Ovechkin in Svechnikov in terms of the way he plays away from the puck. He forechecks honestly and is not afraid to use his size as leverage to win battles and force turnovers. This is just one small example. It does not by itself prove anything, of course, but it’s simply to give a quick glimpse.
He’s a player who likes to force turnovers in the offensive and neutral zones, and will never be accused of giving up on a play. He works hard on the backcheck and played key PK minutes for the Russian World Junior team.
Svechnikov has lived and played in North America the past two seasons; he spent the 2016-2017 season in the United States Hockey League. Thus, he is already acclimated to both North America and its style of hockey, and teams not have to worry about luring him away from the KHL.
I think it is possible to put together respectable arguments for drafting one, maybe two other players ahead of Svechnikov. Nonetheless, in my mind there is no doubt that he is the second-best player available in the draft. His drop to third or fourth in some people’s rankings might be attributed to his underwhelming World Juniors performance, where he had no goals and five assists in five games. The World Junior Championship is important, but there is massive danger in overweighting a short tournament. Especially given that he should be excused for his lack of scoring. Russia were a complete mess the entire tournament, and their coaches inexplicably kept Svechnikov on the fourth line for most games. A wrist injury earlier in the season also has not helped his draft stock.
In fact, while I disagree with the few people ranking him ahead of Dahlin, I don’t think it’s an indefensible stance. Svechnikov is one of the best wingers to come through the draft in a long time. He produces points at an elite level, which in itself makes him a top prospect. The rest of his game is strong too, though, and so he has the potential to be one of the top wingers in the NHL. He’ll immediately step into the league next season and contribute right away.
What Others Have Said
Barrie Colts Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk (Via NHL.com):
“He kind of reminds me of (Hockey Hall of Fame right wing) Glenn Anderson in the way Glenn used to come in wide and then cut in. He’s hard to handle driving the net and is going to be a unique player. You don’t see too many like him.”
“Easily the best draft prospect from the OHL since (Connor) McDavid.”
“A sniper, a net front presence, a playmaker, a machine in puck battles, and a strong backchecker — all in one. He’s the complete package.”