It was not too long ago that Evgeny Svechnikov was thought to be one of, if not the best prospect within the Red Wings system. His first round pedigree as well as his joyful personality made him a quick fan favorite. The young Russian forward stole the hearts of Wings fans with his missing front tooth and smile that never seems to go away.

Never was that more true than when he suited up for his first NHL game, in one of the final home matches at Joe Louis Arena, so emotions were already high. It’s hard to forget the story book ending to the game when Svechnikov scored the shootout winning goal, going five hole on Craig Anderson.

Following that he opened up his first post game interview with the media with the classic Geno line “Hello friends.” From there, he became such an easy guy to root for.

It’s because of the immediate connection he made that his latest two-year run truly feels unfair and unimaginable. After failing to make the Red Wings in 2017-18 he returned to Grand Rapids and had a very lackluster season. He played without confidence and it showed as the year went on. But a brief stint with the NHL team and a strong preseason had many thinking the old Svechnikov was back. But instead he went down with an ACL injury and just like that his season was over.

Now back to full health, his future is up in the end. Can he become that top-6 forward it look like he was destined to become, or will the injury set-back hurt his confidence like it did in 2017-18? It’s why Svechnikov is the biggest enigma currently in the Detroit pipeline.


Career Arc

As I briefly touched on, Svechnikov has had a bumpy career arc, with some highs, and some lows. Before being selected by the Red Wings 19th overall in the 2015 NHL draft, he was a high scoring, import forward for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. Seen as a more polarizing player at the time, Svechnikov struggled on the international stage, but consistently impressed in his league play.

His mostly promising draft year (2014-15) was good enough to merit him a top-20 selection. Looking back, passing on Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny, who went a few picks later, certainly stings. But in hindsight, no one could have predicted the strange developmental path he would endure in the coming years.

The following season he continued to progress upwards, scoring 32 goals and 79 points in 50 QMJHL games. Thanks to his October birthday he was eligible to play in the AHL the next season (2016-17), and it proved to be an easy transition. Svechnikov scored 20 goals and 51 points in his first pro season, which is phenomenal. It truly seemed the Wings had a top prospect on their hands.

However, a sophomore slump plagued his second year in the AHL. He struggled to find the back of the net and in turn his confidence took a hit, which was quite noticeable with his play on the ice. In an attempt to raise his spirits he still got called up to Detroit for a 14 game stint and played well, considering the circumstances. He even scored his first NHL goal.

Then came preseason for the 2018-19 season and he was one of the Red Wings best players. His spot on the NHL roster look certain, but then his ACL injury occurred, wiping out his season. A huge blow to a player on the ups.

Now he is a mystery, in terms of the impact he’ll have in the NHL. Will he need some AHL time to get back into the flow? Or can he surprise once again and contribute to the NHL roster right now? All these questions will be answered at the upcoming training camp.

Prospect Profile

Svechnikov is not your traditional power forward. He fits the mold of a skilled winger who plays in more of a cycle and drives the puck up ice. He skates well for a big guy and owns a pair of soft hands. He is a bit slender, which is possibly why you don’t seem him make a living in front of the net or in the corners. At this point I wouldn’t imagine he gets much bigger. The work he puts in at the gym will matter more so.

There isn’t one true aspect to his game that stands out, such as his shot or speed or hands. It all sort of blends together with smart decision-making. The lack of one elite skill may be responsible for his delayed breakthrough into the NHL, but in his junior hockey days that skill set was good enough to dominate superior talent.

Future Projection

What will Svechnikov be? That is the million dollar question.

On one hand, his early success after being drafted still gives me some belief he can carve out an impact role in a top-6 or top-9 role. If you are hoping for a 60 point player, you might be out to lunch, but I think a 15-20 goal scorer isn’t out of the question. It’s not an ideal end result for a first round pick, but that still is a good player, and the Red Wings are desperate for them.

If it doesn’t work out, I still can envision a spot on the team for him. He has enough speed and skill to make it on an NHL 4th line and be a nice depth piece. The NHL has trended in a direction where bottom-6 lineups feature more speed and skill than toughness and grit.