Sept. 12, 2016
By Brendan Savage, MLive
The way the Detroit Red Wings see it, Evgeny Svechnikov has accomplished all he can in junior hockey.
Svechnikov scored 32 goals in back-to-back seasons with Cape Breton of the QMJHL and didn't appear out of place during his pro debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins during the AHL playoffs last spring.
They think it's time for their 2015 first-round draft pick to play professionally full time.
"I learned a lot in junior hockey," said Svechnikov, the 19th overall pick in the 2015 draft. "I had a good coach and I think I'm ready. "Done with junior hockey now. So excited. Have to be ready as much as I can.
"Of course it's very exciting. First season pro. We'll see. I'm not going to think a lot. Just day by day."
After getting 78 points as a QMJHL rookie two years ago and then picking up 79 last season, Svechnikov played two games with Grand Rapids in the Central Division Finals series vs. Lake Erie.
He drew an assist in his first pro game and received a thumbs up from Griffins coach Todd Nelson, who admitted that Svechnikov started slowly before turning in a strong third period after getting over a bout with nerves.
When the Red Wings drafted Svechnikov, they liked virtually everything about him.
Svechnikov has good size at 6-foot-2, 199 pounds; he possesses solid skills; can play all three forward positions; has good hockey sense; and is projected as a top-six forward.
"Evgeny knows what he needs to work on," said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. "He's a fierce competitor. He is as good as anybody we've had in (development) camp retrieving pucks, battling for loose pucks, trying to jump on loose pucks, playing really fast in the offensive zone, moving the puck really well.
"I think with his competitive nature he will find his niche in pro hockey. I really like what he brings to the table."
Svechnikov, who will play in this week's prospects tournament beginning Friday in Traverse City, wants to improve in the same areas most young players do – skating ability, strength and speed.
He hopes the time he spent in Grand Rapids, where he's projected to play this season, will be beneficial when the Red Wings open training camp next week at Centre I.C.E. Arena.
"It was a lot of experience," he said.
While Svechnikov has adjusted to life in North America after two seasons with Cape Breton, he'll feel even more at home this season because he won't be far from his mother Elena and younger brother Andrei, a 6-2 winger.
Andrei, 18, was drafted by the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks and mom is moving to Michigan to live with him.
Since Muskegon is about a 40-minute drive from Grand Rapids, Evgeny sees himself making plenty of trips across I-96 to get some of his mother's home cooking.
"Yeah, that's the reason, that's why she coming," he said with a grin. "Russian food. Home food. It's good. She gonna visit me a lot. I'm gonna go there and she gonna come. So it's good."