Heading into THW’s second annual mock draft, I had a plan for the Edmonton Oilers’ first-round selection at #19: take one of the top goaltenders available. Given their current prospect pool, the Oilers could use a truly elite goaltender prospect, and while I was confident that Jesper Wallstedt would be off the board by then, I expected the second-best goalie in the class, Sebastian Cossa, to be available.
With the 11th overall pick, however, the Chicago Blackhawks derailed my strategy. With Cossa off the board so early, I had to quickly pivot to figure out what the best option would be for Edmonton. The next best goaltender available on my board, Ben Gaudreau, would have been far too much of a reach at pick #19, so I knew that I had to throw my original game plan away.
As names continued to be pulled off the board, Russian forward Fyodor Svechkov stood out as a potential fit for Edmonton. When it finally came time for the Oilers to make their selection, I decided to take a chance on him at #19, as he could bring so much to the franchise.
What Svechkov Could Bring to the Oilers
If you only look at Svechkov’s statistical page, you will see a player with solid offensive production, who posted 15 points in 15 games in the MHL and 15 points in 38 games while playing with Lada Togliatti of the VHL, the second-highest tier of hockey in Russia. However, his offensive potential isn’t what makes him a high-end prospect in the draft.
The reason why Svechkov is considered by many to be the top Russian player available in 2021 is his defensive play. To put it simply, he is a dominant two-way forward who can shut opponents down on all ends of the ice.
As said by SkyonAir of stanleycupofchowder.com:
…he (Svechkov) reads opposing forechecks with the kind of acumen normally reserved for Norris candidate blueliners…
Svechkov is a disciplined forward, who makes life incredibly hard for his opponents. He hounds them when they have the puck, cutting off their passing lanes while limiting their ability to get a clean shot on the net. He also has a high hockey IQ, which when combined with a strong stickhandling ability, allows him to be in the right place on the ice to steal a puck and quickly transition it down the ice for a scoring chance to his teammates.
Things are not perfect for Svechkov, of course. His offensive upside is limited, and his skating is considered average when compared to his counterparts, meaning that he will need to work on these aspects of his game before he will be able to make the jump to the NHL.
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However, after he was acquired by SKA St. Petersburg in the 2021 offseason, he is expecting to take on starting time against men in the KHL in the coming year. This could go a long way in his development, as SKA is one of the top franchises in the league, and he will have to quickly develop his game to crack their lineup.
Svechkov Would Be a Perfect Fit For Edmonton
With the 19th overall pick, the Oilers could be able to select a forward with more offensive upside than Svechkov, but I don’t think they would be able to get a player who would be a better fit for the franchise in the coming years. As a team, Edmonton has some of the top offensive talents in the world, but where they often falter is their lack of depth.
Selecting a defensive first forward who is projected to be a middle-six player isn’t sexy, but it’s the kind of move that Edmonton must make for their future. You need shut down forwards to compete in the postseason, and even just one or two of these players can turn a good roster into a championship contender.
If they can develop his defensive toolkit, Svechkov would make Edmonton a harder team to play against, which would be a big win for the franchise. We already know they can score plenty of goals, after all, so adding prospects that can keep pucks out of the net could pay dividends in the coming years.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.