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Svechnikov impressive in debut for Hurricanes at Traverse City

No. 2 pick has two assists in rookie tournament win against Blues

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Andrei Svechnikov on Friday showed flashes of the speed and skill the Carolina Hurricanes expect will make him an elite player in the NHL.

In his debut at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, the 18-year-old forward assisted on two goals in a 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues.

The No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft also showed he has room to grow while making the first step toward earning a spot on the Hurricanes' opening night roster.

Svechnikov acknowledged it took him some time to adjust but said he felt more comfortable as the game progressed.

"The first period was kind of hard," he said. "The second period was kind of hard too. But the third period, I started to feel it in my hands and skates."

That was to be expected, even after he led Ontario Hockey League rookies with 40 goals and 72 points with Barrie last season.

"I think the speed of play is such a step up from the OHL," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. "I see a couple things that he tried to do that I think he can do, but probably didn't anticipate a player would react so quickly.

"He's one of those guys I think is just going to get better. The more experience and more opportunities he gets to play, he's going to get better."

It wasn't all bad for Svechnikov in the first period. His power-play shot from the right circle led to a rebound that Julien Gauthier knocked in to give Carolina a 2-0 lead at 8:38.

In the third period, Svechnikov used his speed on the right wing to race into the offensive zone before making a cross-ice pass to Janne Kuokkanen for Carolina's final goal with 5:26 remaining.

Svechnikov said he enjoyed playing on the top line with Kuokkanen, a second-round pick (No. 43) in the 2016 NHL Draft; and center Martin Necas, a first-round pick (No. 12) in the 2017 NHL Draft.

"It was great," Svechnikov said. "Necas (who scored) and Kuokkanen are good players and hopefully we will build some chemistry together."

Svechnikov and Necas can give the Hurricanes two top-line players who will be key pieces of their future. Though they're playing on the same line in this tournament, the Hurricanes plan to split them when training camp begins Sept. 14.

"Probably a little harder in the NHL to put the two young players like that together," Waddell said. "Down the road I can see it, but I think right now [coach Rod Brind'Amour's] plan is probably to break them up in camp, let them play with some veteran players. To be fair to them, they probably need to play with some veteran players too."

Necas, who played one game for the Hurricanes at the start of last season before returning to the Czech Extraliga, is a year ahead of Svechnikov in his development and has a chance to begin the NHL season on one of the top two lines. Svechnikov probably won't play in the top six, at least to start the season.

"I don't know about right away," Waddell said. "I always want to be careful. … Let him grow at the pace he's prepared to grow at. I don't want to force him into a role that he's not ready for or build up expectations and have a letdown. He's got the skill, he's going to get there, it's just a matter of how fast he's going to get there."

Svechnikov (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) already has the size and strength to play in the NHL but understands he has a lot to learn, beginning in this tournament.

"Just playing hard here and getting experience playing with these guys," he said. "Maybe you will play together next year in the NHL, so it's a great experience."

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