Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Andrei Svechnikov is a big admirer of Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews.
"I watch him a lot because when he takes the puck he makes a good choice," said Svechnikov, a right wing for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League. "It's either a scoring choice or system choice, something that helps the team. He can protect the puck really well and has a lot of skill."
Matthews was 6-foot-2, 216 pounds when the Maple Leafs selected him No. 1 in the 2016 NHL Draft. He was labeled a generational two-way center with power and grace.
Svechnikov (6-2, 186), No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, isn't projected to be a generational talent like Matthews, but he does have plenty of power and grace in his arsenal. He might also be the first forward off the board at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22.
"I think if there's one (Canadian Hockey League) player right now who can step into an NHL lineup it would probably be [Svechnikov]," said Karl Stewart of NHL Central Scouting. "He's big and his shot is so powerful. He just drops the shoulder and turns it on; you can't stop him. His shot bides him so much time and space that defenders have to play up on him, but he has the skill to dance around you. He's a magician on the half-wall on the power play."
Svechnikov has 55 points (31 goals, 24 assists), 137 shots on goal and a plus-16 rating in 36 games as a rookie for Barrie this season. He hasn't missed a beat since returning to the lineup Dec. 8 after missing 17 games because of a hand injury sustained Oct. 14.
"I fell on the ice and my wrist bent a different way, so I was out six weeks," Svechnikov said. "It wasn't painful and I wanted to go back on the ice, but when I tried to shoot, my hand hurt.
"I'm a power forward; I can hit, pass and score."
Svechnikov, who turns 18 on March 26, has 41 points (21 goals, 20 assists) in 26 games since his return to the lineup. He plays a big role on one of the top lines in the OHL with center Aaron Luchuk and Dmitry Sokolov.
"He's a strong kid, good size, skates really well and drives the net," said Barrie coach and Hockey Hall of Fame center Dale Hawerchuk. "He kind of reminds me of (Hockey Hall of Fame right wing) Glenn Anderson in the way Glenn used to come in wide and then cut in. He's hard to handle driving the net and is going to be a unique player. You don't see too many like him."
The left-handed shot had five assists and four shots on goal with limited ice time in five games as the youngest player for Russia at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
"It didn't look like he played a ton of big minutes at World Juniors but I think Russia plays more of a passive forecheck game," Hawerchuk said. "He's used to being on a more aggressive forecheck."
Hawerchuk said Svechnikov will do whatever it takes to play in the NHL as early as next season.
"He's got a very good, quick, heavy shot and he's not afraid to use it," Hawerchuk said. "In today's game, if you can get that shot off the way he does, it's pretty advantageous."
Svechnikov finished fifth overall, including first in weave agility and in weave agility with the puck, during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on-ice testing across 10 different categories in Guelph, Ontario, on Jan. 24.
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"He's a really hard worker and practices like crazy every day," said Sudbury forward Kirill Nizhnikov, who played 25 games with Svechnikov this season before his trade to Sudbury in December. "He always stayed late on the ice. He's like a practice machine."
Hawerchuk recalled a funny moment while Svechnikov was out with his hand injury.
"He'd time our players on the stationary bike, shouting and pushing them hard," Hawerchuk said. "He really gets into it. The players on this team don't think of him as a rookie. He likes to practice and has been very coachable."
The younger brother of Detroit Red Wings forward prospect Evgeny Svechnikov spent his first season in North America with Muskegon of the United States Hockey League in 2016-17, and finished fifth in the league with 29 goals and sixth with 58 points. Barrie selected him with the No. 1 pick of the 2017 Canadian Hockey League import draft.
"His combination of size, skill and ability is difficult to deal with and at times when we've played him," London Knights general manager Rob Simpson said of Andrei Svechnikov. "We've had a tough time containing him, because he's very good down low. He's great off the rush and a dual threat as far as being able to make plays and score. He's another very good, young player, with tons of upside."