Over the last 25 years, the Detroit Red Wings have had their fair share of skilled Russian hockey players. From Sergei Fedorov and the rest of the legendary “Russian Five” to Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings can attribute a lot of their last two decades of success to these polarizing foreign players. Now with Datsyuk gone, there’s a new young and talented prospect primed to be the next favorite Russian player in Hockeytown, Evgeny Svechnikov.
Detroit selected Svechnikov with their first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Lured by his physical size and offensive abilities, it’s plain to see why the Red Wings did not hesitate on bringing the young forward into the organization. He had back-to-back 75 plus point seasons in the QMJHL as a member of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles between 2014 and 2016. In 2016 he joined Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, appearing in two playoff games with the club near the end of the 2015-16 season.
Last year, Svechnikov made his presence known in Grand Rapids by registering 20 goals and 31 assists in 74 regular season games. He was also a driving force in the postseason, netting 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in 19 games played, helping the Griffins capture the AHL’s Calder Cup Championship for the second time in franchise history. Fans in Detroit also got their first glimpse of Svenchikov in a Red Wings’ uniform in 2016-17, as he appeared in two games with the club. Although he failed to score any points during his brief stint in the NHL last year, he scored the winning goal in a memorable seven-round shootout last April against the Ottawa Senators in his NHL debut.
With moves like the ones demonstrated in the video above, it’s easy to get excited about Svechnikov climbing the prospect ranks in Detroit. He still may require another full season in Grand Rapids to develop into the 200-foot player that the Wings want him to be but he still may make a case for more ice time in the NHL in 2017-18. Aside from his capabilities with the puck on his stick, there’s a lot to like about Svechnikov as a person off of the ice as well.
Svechnikov Stays Humble & Hilarious
Much like Datsyuk, Svechnikov is a talented hockey player with an endearing sense of humor. After being drafted by the Red Wings he began his first NHL press conference with the simple but lovable and polite phrase “Hello friends.” When asked what his favorite part about moving to North America was he replied, “chocolate milk with cookies.”
His sense of humor outside of the rink may be only outshined by his humility and love for his family. When he signed his entry-level contract in October of 2015, he immediately gifted his $92,500 signing bonus back to his mother and father in Russia in appreciation of their sacrifices that allowed him to chase his NHL dreams.
“They need it more than me,” said the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles sophomore star. “I have a very good life, much better than theirs.”
Speaking of family, his brother, Andrei Svechnikov of the OHL’s Barrie Colts, could very well be the first name announced in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas. It may be a fool’s hope but if the Red Wings struggle again in 2017-18, as many assume they will, there’s a small chance Detroit could secure a high draft position via the lottery and reunite the Svechnikov brothers in the NHL. Either way, Elena and Igor Svechnikov must be extremely proud of their boys, and it appears that their hard work has not gone unappreciated.
Svechnikov Fits in Detroit
Before the Red Wings made him the highest drafted Russian-born player in team history, he already had some loose ties to Detroit. Evgeny Larionov, the brother of former Wings’ player Igor Larionov, had a hand in directing Svechnikov’s path to the NHL. Larionov persuaded the Svechnikovs to relocate to Moscow to help develop their son’s game after being impressed by what he saw in the young hockey player.
More recently, “Geno,” as he is referred to by his teammates and coach, has developed chemistry with fellow Red Wings’ prospects such as Tyler Bertuzzi. Both Bertuzzi and Svechnikov have benefitted greatly from playing alongside one another in the AHL and hopefully, the duo can translate that synergy into Detroit’s lineup.
Griffins’ head coach Todd Nelson spoke highly of Svechnikov’s development and commitment to improving during the team’s 2016-17 season:
He’s one of the prospects I’ve had, in all the years I’ve coached in the American Hockey League, that has matured into a player more quickly than other players, that’s a credit to him. He works at his game. He loves coming to the rink. He always is looking for information from us, and he is applying it.
His personality, skill, and work ethic are all things that will help him succeed in Detroit, not only with the team but with the fans as well. The Red Wings’ faithful have many fond memories of watching electrifying Russian-born players in Hockeytown and Svechnikov looks to provide the next generation of fans with many new exciting moments to cheer for.