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Svechnikov making huge strides in second season with Hurricanes

Forward's newfound confidence in his game, use of English language helps aid transition

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Andrei Svechnikov uses the word 'confidence' a lot, eight times in a four-minute interview, to be exact.

It's a 10-letter word the Carolina Hurricanes forward feels comfortable using in a sentence because he knows how to use it properly. The 19-year-old from Russia said he's starting to feel the same way with adjectives like unbelievable and gorgeous, examples of some of the bigger words in his growing English vocabulary that is starting to impress his admiring teammates.

"He's really funny with some of the stuff he says," defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "His wit and humor is really good."

So is his game. Fueled by confidence this season, Svechnikov has attempted the unbelievable and created the gorgeous, particularly the lacrosse-style goal he scored in the third period against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 29.

He settled the puck behind the net, scooped it onto his blade and a second later dunked it into the top-left corner quickly, past the head of a flinching David Rittich, the Flames goalie.

Video: CGY@CAR: Svechnikov scores lacrosse-style goal

"We're spoiled, we get to see him every day," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "The talent has obviously always been there, but I just love the kid. He just does everything you want him to do. He wants to get better. The stars all want to get better, they're never satisfied with where they're at. That's why I think he's got a chance to be a star."

Carolina selected Svechnikov No. 2 in the 2018 NHL Draft hopeful that he could become a star. It's happening maybe faster than anyone thought or realized it could.

He leads the Hurricanes with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games despite being eighth in average ice time per game on the team (16:40). He has five goals and 13 points on the power play. 

Svechnikov had 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 82 games as a rookie last season, when he averaged 14:39 of ice time per game. He had five points, no goals, on the power play.

"Last year was my first year and it was pretty hard because I didn't know any of the systems or any of the guys," Svechnikov said. "It was a hard first couple months. This year, I've got more confidence." 

It started to build late last season, when he had five goals in the final 14 games of the season after a stretch of five in 35 games from Dec. 22-March 9. He scored five points (three goals, two assists) in nine Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping the Hurricanes reach the Eastern Conference Final.  

"I think I said to myself, 'I'm an NHLer and I've got to play like it,'" Svechnikov said. "'Don't just look at those guys, play my game.'"

His game clearly features daring attempts at scoring goals like the one against the Flames that tied the game 1-1 with 10:47 remaining in the third period. Svechnikov scored on the power play 3:22 later, the deciding goal in Carolina's 2-1 win.

"The game before that I scored two goals and you're always like that after those games," Svechnikov said. "The next day you come in and you've got confidence. I felt like I was very confident and that's why I tried that move."

Video: CHI@CAR: Svechnikov scores after fortunate bounce

And if it failed?

"I'd just try it again," Svechnikov said matter-of-factly. "Actually, last year I tried it a couple times but I didn't score, and then I just kept trying."

There's that confidence, swagger, and even a hint of Svechnikov's joie de vivre about the game.

"He'd do it last year in practice and even this year too," forward Warren Foegele said. "But I remember last year some guys would try to hit him and say, 'You're not going to embarrass me like that.' For him, he doesn't care. He tried doing it last year against the [New York] Islanders and it almost worked. He's a confident kid and he knows he has his abilities to perform it. Why not try it if you're going to practice it every day, right?"

Hamilton credited Svechnikov for being unfazed by the NHL, by expectations, by anything, really.

"He likes the moment," Hamilton said. "Act like a star and be a star."

That includes doing everything else that doesn't show up in the highlight packages.

"He's on the ice first, always last off," Hamilton said. "He spends a lot of time at the rink getting his gear ready, getting his body ready. He's trying to get better. You can tell that he wants to be a great player."

Brind'Amour said Svechnikov's understanding of how to play the game away from the puck has stood out to him this season.

"He's still miles away from where he's going to be in understanding that, but I think there's just a better maturation in his game on, 'OK, I only have the puck 20 percent of the time I'm on the ice, so that other 80 percent I've got to be good,'" Brind'Amour said. "He's still learning that part of it, but that to me is where he's improved the most."

Video: CAR@OTT: Svechnikov snaps puck by Nilsson for PPG

That and his English, of course.

Svechnikov has become vocal enough in English this season. It has helped him fit in and even leave some of his teammates in stiches.

"We do a lot of stuff together and he's right in there with us," forward Sebastian Aho said. "Last year he was really quiet, didn't say much, but I would say now he's a funny guy."

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