By Pete Wallner, MLive.com
GRAND RAPIDS - Touted prospect Evgeny Svechnikov has been one of the most productive scorers for the Grand Rapids Griffins thus far in the postseason, though the former first-round pick doesn't look at his play any differently than the regular season.
"I know that every game, the risks gets higher," he said. "But I try to keep my game the same and do everything for the team."
The first-year pro and the Red Wings' first pick in 2015 (19th overall) continues to make a good impression. He is the team's second leading scorer with nine points (3-6-9) through eight games heading into Saturday's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at San Jose.
Against Chicago in the division finals, Svechnikov had two goals (one on the power play) and five points and was busy with 13 shots. Just as importantly, he took just one minor penalty and has six penalty minutes total in the postseason, a nice improvement from the constant stick-related calls that dogged him early in the season.
He finished the regular season 20-31-51 in 74 games with 62 penalty minutes.
"Geno is gaining confidence every time he goes out there, and he's come such a long way," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. "You see a lot of the younger players growing every game."
Nelson said Svechnikov's success is also a product of the team success. Five players have at least eight points through eight games.
"He's producing for us, playing a team game," Nelson said. "What's nice about this series (coming up) is you can't pick one line and try and shut it down. We're both deep. And Svech is a big part of it with us (with Kyle Criscuolo and Matt Lorito)."
Svecnhnikov's performance is raising his stock with the Detroit Red Wings. His chances of making the team out of camp are slim, given the Red Wings would want him on a top two line, but he should get a call-up at some point similar to this season. He appeared in two games in April for his first exposure to the NHL.
"Oh, I'd say so, for sure," Nelson said of his improved stock. "He's playing his best hockey right now."
"Everyone in the room knows he has a really bright future," Tyler Bertuzzi said. "He's a really good guy in the room and his skills on the ice are next to none. I've been with him (on a line during the season) and he makes it really easy because of his skills."
The 20-year-old Svechnikov has enjoyed it so far.
"I think I've played good," he said. "First two games (against Chicago) I don't think I was at my best but after that, especially the last two games, I think myself and our line did our best so far."
In two regular-season meetings against San Jose, the Griffins went 0-1-0-1. The only Griffins goal in the two games came from Svechnikov in a 4-1 loss at Van Andel Arena on Jan. 27.