After rumours earlier this month that the Winnipeg Jets were eying unrestricted free agent Evgeny Svechnikov, the Manitoba Moose have signed him to a one-year deal and the Jets have extended him a professional tryout offer.
It’s a low-risk deal for the organization, but nonetheless, one that has the potential to work out well.
Svechnikov Unable to Find His Footing Thus Far
Svechnikov is a first-round pick who hasn’t been able to put it all together. Selected 19th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he has five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 41 NHL games, but did not become the top-six force the Red Wings were hoping. He was not tendered a qualifying offer this summer, making him a UFA.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Russian has some setbacks due to injury, including a knee surgery that wiped out his 2018-19 season and a “shoulder issue cleaned up in May,” according to Ken Wiebe. He is the older brother of star Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, who was selected second overall in 2018.
The left-shot right-winger does have point-producing potential, however. Prior to being selected by the Red Wings, he racked up 157 points (64 goals, 93 assists) in just 105 games with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles over two seasons and has been a solid producer with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Sports Forecaster’s scouting report notes Svechnikov has a number of strengths.
(Svechnikov) has excellent size for the wing position, plus the soft hands of a natural scorer. (He) shoots the puck with aplomb and knows where to go in order to score goals. Is at his best when he uses his size effectively. Needs to play a more consistent game in all three zones in order to maximize production at the highest level. Must use his size more often, and with great effectiveness, to make the biggest impact.
Svechnikov Faces Tough Competition
It will be tough for Svechnikov to crack the big club with plenty of guys champing at the bit for bottom-six spots — David Gustafsson, Jansen Harkins, Riley Nash, Cole Perfetti, Dominic Toninato, and Kristian Vesalainen among them. Competition this fall for a role on a Jets’ club —one that is a Stanley Cup contender after a strong offseason — will be hot, especially since only two of six full-time bottom-six players remain (Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry.)
Although Svechnikov’s path will not be an easy one, he shouldn’t be written off: veteran forward Trevor Lewis came to the club last season on a PTO, impressed enough in training camp to make the team, and played with aplomb in a fourth-line and penalty-killing role throughout 2020-21.
Svechnikov Worth Having in the Fold
At just 24 years old, and with his size and yet-realized potential, Svechnikov is worth taking a gamble on. Even if he ends up spending the entire season with the Moose, a player with his skill could certainly help the Mark Morrison-led club compete for a Calder Cup Playoff spot.
The best case scenario is that Svechnikov finally busts out and provides the Jets with some forward depth and offensive upside. With the salary cap flat, having low-cost players available who can jump in and contribute are more valuable than ever.
Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.