Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has quick thoughts on Andrei Svechnikov version 2.0 through four games in his sophomore season.
In my book, Andrei Svechnikov’s 2018-19 season was a mixed bag at least measured against the high expectations of being the first forward taken in the 2018 NHL Draft. His 20 goals were a decent milestone for an 18-year old rookie, and he showed enough of an offensive tool bag to validate the high expectations placed on him. But on the downside, his rookie season was not one of taking the NHL by storm. He was never really a factor in the Calder Trophy race that many expected him to win. His 37 points were modest. And areas of his game proved to be raw as one might expect. But despite the good but not great rookie season, Svechnikov exited the 2018-19 season with all of his upside intact and high hopes for his second season.
By no means is four games enough to make any kind of declarative assessment of Svechnikov’s second season, but I thought it would be interesting to offer early thoughts on his 2019-20 campaign through four games.
Andrei Svechnikov with Jordan Staal
Before the season started, I was not high on a Jordan Staal/Andrei Svechnikov combination. My reasoning was twofold. First, I thought Staal’s lack of playmaking ability would fail to maximize Svechnikov’s goal scoring ability. Second, I did not like the idea of forcing Staal’s match up line responsibilities on a young Svechnikov who was still a work in progress defensively exiting the 2018-19 season. But through four games, the duo has been good together. Early indications might actually suggest that I was right on Svechnikov’s goal scoring being limited since he has yet to score. But in general, the positives have outweighed the negatives. Svechnikov has meshed well with Staal playing a puck possession game, and his game has been mostly quiet in a good way defensively. And though Svechnikov has yet to score, he has been a factor offensively leading the team with six assists (three on the power play).
Maturation offensively as a playmaker
What has most stood out about Svechnikov’s play through four games has been his playmaking/passing ability. The volume of power play goals might suggest that multiple areas of both power play units are clicking, but in reality the team has a single going concern with the man advantage. That catalyst is the top triangle formed by Andrei Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton and Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen rightfully is getting top billing for his ability to thread passes through seams to the front of the net where Erik Haula and Ryan Dzingel have benefited. But Svechnikov also deserves his share of credit. Most of the plays Teravainen has made have been preceded by passes through the seem by Svechnikov that forces the penalty killers to shift quickly twice in a a short period of time. Being just a tiny bit slow or off passing lanes has been what Teravainen has exploited.
At even strength, Svechnikov has also been a difference-maker as a playmaker. I really think this is a sign of the maturation of his game and thought process offensively. As a rookie, Svechnikov was prone to fire at will from any and all angles taking his chance on beating a goalie even on a low probability shot. As they say, it is never a bad thing to shoot the puck, and I think Svechnikov needs to continue to have a shoot first bias. But at the same time, I think Svechnikov is adjusting to an NHL reality. In lower levels with a good shot, a player like Svechnikov could beat goalies on low percentage shots, but at the NHL level, I think he is learning to distinguish between good chances and ones that sometimes you pass on to force the goalie to move and make a save after a pass that forces him to adjust. In this regard, I think Svechnikov’s numbers are actually a bit understated by Staal not finishing at a high rate.
With four games being a small sample size, I will be curious to watch Svechnikov’s 2019-20 play out. Early indications are that the maturation of his game could see him more balanced between scoring and playmaking.
Physical and defensive play
Svechnikov played with a physical edge even as a rookie, but I think he has dialed that up a notch early in his second season. He continues to play physical, finish checks and get under opposing players’ skin. He is very a physically engaged power forward already and should only grow in that regard as he gets stronger over the next couple years.
One of the limitations to Svechnikov’s game as a rookie was his defensive play. He was prone to too many short lapses that found him awake out of position and then too often use his stick to make up for it. The result was a high volume of obstruction penalties trying to recover from not moving his feet soon enough. Through four games, Svechnikov does have one of those penalties already and a couple other near misses, so it is premature to call this issue resolved. But as I noted above, his game has generally been quiet defensively in a good way playing with Staal and the match ups that come with that. So at least through four games, I would say that Svechnikov has made modest progress with this element of his game.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What is your assessment of Andrei Svechnikov through four games?
2) What are your thoughts on Andrei Svechnikov with Jordan Staal through four games?
3) What, if anything given the small sample size, do you make of Svechnikov’s 0 goal/6 assist total through four games?