By Brian Hedger, NHL.com
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Evgeny Svechnikov will start training camp with the Detroit Red Wings on Friday with one goal in mind.
The 20-year-old Russian forward wants to help the Red Wings return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they missed it for the first time in 25 seasons.
"I want to be a Red Wing," said Svechnikov, who was taken by Detroit with the No. 19 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. "I don't want to just make the team. I want to make it better, and I'm just trying to find a way to make that possible. So, I'm going to go out there [in camp] and just try to do my best. If I can make the team better, I could have a chance [to make the team]."
Svechnikov, who is playing right wing on the Red Wings' top line at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, will get a long look from Detroit's coaching staff in training camp. General manager Ken Holland said that Svechnikov and forward Tyler Bertuzzi could each earn roles with the Red Wings if they prove themselves to be ready during the preseason.
Svechnikov plans to make good on his opportunity, knowing that chances like this don't happen often for Red Wings rookies. Detroit's prospects typically wait longer in their professional careers to earn NHL roles.
"It makes me work harder and motivates me so much," said Svechnikov, who made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators on April 3 and played two games with the Red Wings. "I want to make the team better, so whatever it takes to do that, I'll do. I can't complain, you know? It's the best club I could ever play [for], so wherever they think I need to be, that's where I'll be playing."
Svechnikov is coming off his first full season with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. He had 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) in 74 regular-season games and helped the Griffins win the Calder Cup with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 19 playoff games.
Since being drafted a year after Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, who's entering his third NHL season, Svechnikov has steadily made improvements on the ice. He's gotten better at skating, honed the accuracy of a shot that already drew good reviews from scouts and his stickhandling is high-end for a power forward who is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
"It's like he has the puck on a string," said defenseman Dennis Cholowski, who was selected by Detroit with the No. 20 pick in the 2016 draft. "He's a really good guy to give the puck to, for sure. If you want an assist in the offensive zone, you just give him the puck and it's likely going to be in the back of the net."
The Red Wings struggled scoring last season, finishing 26th in goals (198) and goals per game (2.41), and could use someone with Svechnikov's offensive talent. They might also enjoy his intensity, which stands out to his teammates even more than his physical skills.
"As everybody knows, he's got the shot, but what I like the most when you play with him on your team is his battle level," said Axel Holmstrom, Svechnikov's left wing in the tournament. "There's just no doubt about it. He wants to win and play good, and he wants it so much sometimes that you have to cool him down. I love that about him. Every game, he's just ready to go."