Hurricanes’ Svechnikov Is Becoming a Team Cornerstone

Up to this point in the season, Andrei Svechnikov has been arguably the Carolina Hurricanes’ most important player in their early success. His rookie season was above average, but it felt like he had more potential than he was showing last season. He scored 20 goals and accounted for 17 assists in his rookie campaign, a campaign that was voted the fifth-best among rookie forwards. A year of NHL and playoff experience, plus a fight with one of the best players ever (Alex Ovechkin), has helped mature and improve him into the stud that fans know today.

His Monumental Impact to the Team

At this point in a player’s young career, the infamous sophomore slump has a reputation of spoiling fantastic rookie seasons in many sports, but Svechnikov appears to have avoided that terrible phenomenon. In his second season in the league and in only 19 games played, he already has 21 points — 8 goals and 13 assists.

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes
Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In nine games since Oct. 26 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks, Svechnikov has been responsible for seven goals and six assists and has scored more than a quarter of the team’s total goals during that stretch. He has helped the Hurricanes stay afloat in the early division race and avoid more disappointment, as they’ve fallen to 6-7-1 in their last 14 games since their 5-0-0 start to the season. Despite this stretch, Svechnikov’s brings something to this team that will not come up on a box score. He always seems to be up-beat and have smile on his face. He has a great presence in the locker room and he appears to get along with all of his teammates.

Svechnikov is tied for first with Dougie Hamilton for the team lead in points with 21. He is living up to the hype that the front office foresaw when they selected him second overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. The team needs someone other than Svechnikov and Hamilton to step up and help get them out of their current losing streak and back to where they were during their 5-0-0 start to the season.

His impact on the team is so massive, that they need to sign him to a long-term deal whenever he is eligible. He is still on his three-year entry-level contract signed in 2018 so, when he is nearing the end of that, they need to talk about a long-term deal.

His Team’s Impact on Him

Svechnikov might be improving this much so quickly as head coach Rod Brind’Amour typically plays him along with two of the Hurricanes’ bonafide stars: Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The opportunity to play with these studs and a season of experience have allowed him to make the jump from a role player to an important piece in thesystem.

Rod Brind'Amour Carolina Hurricanes
Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Instead of playing with third to fourth string players, playing with and against second string players has forced Svechnikov to up his game and improve his overall game. Also, as opposing teams prepare to play the Hurricanes, they will focus on Aho and Teravainen, giving Svechnikov little-to-no attention. This has allowed him to step up and have a huge impact. He has also learned a lot from his linemates and they have helped him improve.

Additionally, being able to play on the first power-play unit along with Aho, Teravainen, Ryan Dzingel, and Hamilton has allowed him to take advantage of the special teams situation. The Hurricanes are sixth in the league in power-play conversion rate at 24.6% and Svechnikov has been a crucial part of that. He is leading the team in power-play goals with four and he has nine points. The ability to play with the team’s best players and opposing team’s best players has forced him to elevate his game and increase his productivity.

His Never-Back-Down Mentality

Despite only being a second-year player, Svechnikov has no short of confidence, but he has the right type of confidence. He is not confident to the point where he is cocky in his abilities, but he has the confidence that he can do anything. He has this mentality where he will never back down from a fight or challenge. He always thinks that he needs to be in the middle of a scuffle, no matter who it is against.

Arguably the most well-known example of this was back in game three of the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round of the playoffs when Alex Ovechkin, one of the best hockey players ever, asked to fight him and Svechnikov was up for the challenge and he accepted. It turned out to be the wrong decision as Ovechkin ended up knocking Svechnikov out for a couple games, but this shows that Svechnikov will never turn down a challenge, even if it is against one of the best hockey players of all time.

Another example of this never-back-down mentality was a few weeks ago in a 2-1 victory against the Calgary Flames. Svechnikov did something no other NHL player has ever done before in a game by accomplishing the lacrosse style goal that Mike Legg from the University of Michigan made famous.

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This goal again symbolizes how Svechnikov is always up for a challenge. The fact that no one had ever done this before did not matter to Svechnikov, he just thought it was another challenge that he had to accomplish and he did just that.

Svechnikov added the go-ahead goal, which eventually became the game-winner versus the talented Flames. Thanks to Svechnikov, this lacrosse-style goal has now been reintroduced to the game and other players are wanting to learn how to do it. His impact to the team is shown again here as he was spotted helping two other players, Martin Necas and Warren Foegele try to succeed at the lacrosse style goal. He wants his teammates to not only be able to perform this goal, but to improve as hockey players and he takes time out of his day in order to make that happen. His teammates commented how hard that goal is to execute.

“He was trying to show Nechy and I how to do it,” Warren Foegele told Michael Smith of NHL.com. “I was like, ‘How are you doing it this way?’ I understand how to do it the other way. I guess it’s The Svechnikov. It takes a lot of confidence and courage to do that. I guess it just shows if you practice at one thing as many times as you can, you can be as good as you can with that skill. He showed it in a game, and it was pretty unreal.”

from ‘Svechnikov Shows Maturity, Confidence in First 100 Games,’ NHL.com, 11/12/19

An Area to Improve On

Svechnikov has been close to perfect up to this point in the season, except for one aspect of the game: penalties. His young player mentality is still evident with his lack of discipline and the coaches need to get on him about this and help him reduce his urge to do something unnecessary.

Svechnikov is second on the team in total penalty minutes with 18 for the season. He averages one penalty minute per game, which might not be a lot compared to the rest of the league, but it is hurting the Hurricanes and their chance to win the game. If he can mature mentality and reduce the amount of penalties that he commits, the team will benefit from it and he will become a true all-around player.

Next Up

Svechnikov has been one of, if not the most productive Hurricane so far this season, and he will look to continue that. Coming off a huge 5-4 overtime win in Buffalo in which Svechnikov recorded a goal and two assists, the Hurricanes will try to win their third straight on Saturday in Minnesota vs. the Wild.