During the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-4 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators on Monday, Evgeny Svechnikov became the sixth player to make his NHL debut with the Red Wings this season.
Other than Nick Jensen, he may be the most deserving of a roster spot next season.
Svechnikov didn’t get on the score sheet but he did notch the game-winning shootout goal. He also brought some much-needed energy to a Red Wings team that has lacked it as of late, with their playoff hopes diminished last week. The players continue to talk about not giving up, but Svechnikov is one of the few players who looks like he’s playing for roster spot consideration next season, as he recorded one shot in nearly 13 minutes of five-on-five ice time Monday, according to Corsica.
From the first puck drop, he was all over the ice, hounding the Senators on defense and moving his feet trying to get into open areas of the ice on offense.
In case you don’t know a lot about Svechnikov, Elite Prospects’ Curtis Joe gives us a scouting report:
[miptheme_quote author=”Elite Prospects’ Curtis Joe” style=”text-center”]Incredibly skilled offensive winger. Has a remarkably accurate shot to go along with some magic hands. Could be better defensively, but his game is based around his acute sense of what is happening on the ice in the offensive zone. All-in-all, a deadly player who possesses good size, elite-level skill, and smooth skating.[/miptheme_quote]
Svechnikov seems like a promising prospect, and his play in the American Hockey League helps him make a case for a roster spot next season.
Svechnikov, Tatar Comparisons
Tomas Tatar had a long and winding road before finally becoming a full-time Red Wing. Detroit was just starting to lose some of its long-time veterans from back-to-back Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 when Tatar started producing in the AHL.
The Red Wings waited as long as they could to bring Tatar up, opting to “over-ripen” him in the AHL while the NHL club still was somewhat competitive.
During the 2013-14 season, Tatar played his first full season with the Red Wings, scoring 19 goals and adding 20 assists in 73 games.
The reason I bring up Tatar is Svechnikov, during his rookie season, posted similar AHL stats to Tatar when he was a rookie, as Winging It In Motown’s Prashanth Iyer points out.
As you can see, Svechnikov beats Tatar in even-strength assists, points and all-situation shots per game. The all-situations shots stat is promising for Red Wings fans, as Detroit is 25th in the league in shots per game (28.4). The Red Wings need more shoot-first players, and Svechnikov could be one solution to Detroit’s look-for-the-perfect-pass mentality.
Of course, scoring in the AHL and scoring in the NHL are quite different, but the Red Wings cannot afford to keep Svechnikov in the AHL as long as they kept Tatar there. Detroit doesn’t have the depth it used to have during its mid-to-late 2000 playoff runs.
General manager Ken Holland needs to start injecting the roster with youth rather than signing aging veterans (Steve Ott, Drew Miller) who take roster spots away from the prospects.
Playing young prospects definitely will result in more-than-average defensive breakdowns — Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou have shown a lack of defensive awareness at times this season — but the offensive abilities of Svechnikov outweigh the cons of possible defensive deficiencies.
Plus, until the Red Wings shore up their defensive unit, there will continue to be many defensive breakdowns regardless of which prospects receive playing time. Might as well give them NHL experience while they learn how to defend in the NHL.
Giving Svechnikov a roster spot next season is a good start toward rebuilding for the future.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.