Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Evgeny Svechnikov will do whatever it takes to realize his dream of playing in the National Hockey League.
The 6-foot-2, 199-pound left-handed shot is on that path after finishing his first season in North America as the second-highest rookie scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 78 points in 55 regular-season games. He also had 32 goals, a plus-19 rating with 70 penalty minutes.
Svechnikov is regarded as a power forward but has the creativity and hands to skate the puck through defenders and power his way to the net. Many scouts believe he has a pro-caliber shot.
The native of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia, is No. 17 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Svechnikov was around hockey for much of his childhood because his father worked at a hockey store in Russia.
"He sharpened skates; he did my skates," Svechnikov said. "He did the simple work and nothing more. My parents said to me, 'Evgeny, you play hockey,' and that was how I started playing."
He made his debut in the Kontinenal Hockey League in 2013-14 at the age of 16, playing three games with Ak Bars Kazan. He spent the majority of the season with the Ak Bars junior club and had 14 goals and 27 points in 29 games.
He had been selected by Cape Breton in the second round (No. 63) of the 2013 Canadian Hockey League import draft and opted to move this season to Sydney, Nova Scotia.
"I know it's important to play here if I want to be in the NHL," Svechnikov said. "I wanted to play here before getting drafted. I wanted to try Canadian hockey, so I play here and I was excited. I never had a chance to watch [the NHL] in Russia because of the time difference; I just hear the news."
In Cape Breton, Svechnikov was reunited with former teammate and fellow Russian Maxim Lazarev, Cape Breton's first-round pick in the 2013 CHL import draft. Lazarev and his parents were a big influence on advising Svechnikov about Cape Breton.
"Evgeny's parents, knowing that Max lived here for a year, asked Maxim's parents how it was for their son," Cape Breton coach and general manager Marc-Andre Dumont told the Cape Breton Post. "The Lazareves really enjoyed their experience for their son. It was 100-percent satisfaction, so that really helped out. It was an important factor."
Another factor in Svechnikov coming to North America this season was to show NHL scouts that his goal is to play in the NHL.
"I want to make an NHL team and if I have to play more in the Canadian Hockey League or the American Hockey League, it doesn't matter," he said. "I was able to bring a few things I learned in Russia to the North American game but it's a different game here. The simple things worked here but not everything."
Svechnikov missed nine games because of a lower-body injury and three more when he was suspended for an illegal hit against a player from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar on March 1.
"I was suspended before [in Russia] for one game but never three games; I know it is my fault," he said.
NHL Central Scouting's Troy Dumville said Svechnikov improved his all-around game during the second half of the season.
"He proved to be a very skilled skater, strong on the puck and a player capable of doing a lot of things well," Dumville said. "He plays a physical game, doesn't back away, is aggressive on the forecheck and finishes checks. He's a pretty complete player for a first-year player in the league. He was playing the off [right] wing the first half of the year and then moved to center.
"By the end of the season he was playing a complete 200-foot game."
In the QMJHL playoffs he had one goal and seven points in seven games. He also felt his game had improved greatly by the end of the season.
"I became stronger on the puck and on the boards; maybe I play better defensively," Svechnikov said.
Svechnikov also has excelled internationally for Russia. He had three goals and seven points in the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and helped Russia win a silver medal in the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with seven goals and eight points in six games.
"He possesses high-end puck skills especially when in traffic, is always in the right positions to be open or receive a pass," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said of Svechnikov. "He was a presence on the ice and was always around the net for scoring opportunities. He works and competes with his skill and assets."