With the second of his two first round picks, Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings might look to the east for perhaps the best Russian in the 2021 NHL Draft Class: Fyodor Svechkov. Can the young Russian center help fill Detroit’s talent gap down the middle?
The VHL and MHL
Svechkov played a majority of his season in Russia’s second-tier major hockey league, the VHL. In 38 games, he scored five goals and ten assist. In a shorter 15-game stint in the Russian minors (The MHL), Svechkov scored the same amount of points (Four goals and 11 assists) in just 15 games.
Like a good chunk of the 2021 prospect pool, Svech received another chance to raise his draft stock in the Junior World Championship. He averaged over a point per game, notching four goals and six assists in seven.
Without a doubt, Svechkov’s greatest strength is his two-way game – more specifically, on the defensive side of the ice. He’s constantly reading defenders at a level way beyond his age, using his high hockey IQ to counter forwards and force turnovers. Svechkov has the ability to use his lethal transitional game to capitalize on any given turnover; his first thought is always to reenter the offensive zone.
Because his skating is just somewhat average, Svechkov often drives the offense through constant cycling and passing of the puck. This is especially true in transition, where he’ll enter a zone through smart, clean passes to his wingers or by ringing it around the boards for his teammates. With the puck on his stick in scoring situations, Svechkov utilizes patience and good stick handling to find the best high-danger opportunity.
Fit for the Yzerplan?
Based on the current draft boards, Svechkov is likely going to be available for Detroit’s 22nd pick. Teams will pass on him because of his relatively low upside – and the fact that he plays hockey in Russia (The so-called “Russian Factor”). Neither of these should be a big problem for Yzerman.
If he takes a swing on a riskier prospect with the sixth overall pick, Svechkov might be the perfect safe option to draft next. Based on his current skillset, it seems safe to say that his skills should translate nicely as a second/third line NHL center, which would help improve the current organizational lack of talent at the position.
Being Russian has never stopped Yzerman from drafting a player in Tampa, so it probably won’t matter here, either. In fact, in this case, Svechkov has heavily benefited from his time in Russia. He’s received the chance to illustrate his skills in a pro-league.
Based on Yzerman’s love for two-way centers, his draft positioning and his projectable NHL skillset, Svechkov seems like too obvious of a choice with the 22nd pick. Again, Svechkov is seen as a safe option, so if Yzerman is hell-bent on finding elite talent, there’s a chance he passes on the Russian center. It all just depends on what draft philosophy he’s running with this year – which fans won’t find out until the names are called on July 22nd.