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Svechnikov ready for pro career

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Evgeny Svechnikov, the Red Wings' first-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft, picked up his first point as a pro during his Griffins debut in Game 5 of the AHL Central Division finals. Svechnikov is expected to play for Grand Rapids this coming season. (Photo by Mark Newman/Grand Rapids Griffins)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- By all accounts, Evgeny Svechnikov had a successful season last year. Now he's ready to take that success to the professional level.

Svechnikov, the Red Wings' first-round draft pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, played his first season in North America.

In 55 games with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Svechnikov had 32 goals, 46 assists and was plus-19.

Svechnikov, 19, joined the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins at the end of the season and due to injuries got to play in two playoff games.

"He played well," Griffins coach Todd Nelson said during the Wings' recent development camp in Traverse City. "For a young kid coming into a situation during the second round of the playoffs, I thought he handled himself well. He is extremely strong in the corners, protecting the puck. We saw in a couple games that he has an offensive flair, so he's a guy that we look at playing a good two-way game but also contributing offensively."

After getting that taste of professional hockey, Svechnikov feels he is prepared to make the jump.

"I learned a lot in junior hockey," Svechnikov said. "I had a good coach and I think I’m ready. Done with junior hockey now. So excited. Have to be ready as much as I can."

Svechnikov, whose English is coming along as nicely as his game, was pleased with last season.

"I think it was a great season, good experience again," Svechnikov said. "It was good run in the playoffs but unfortunately we lost in the second round but I think overall it was a good year."

Although he only played two games with the Griffins, Svechnikov thought he got a lot out of it.

"It was a lot of experience," Svechnikov said. "It’s pro playoff, just the speed of the game. Everything in the lifestyle, it's just everything different. It was a lot of learning there. Again, excited."

Svechnikov is the type of player the Wings have wanted to develop, a big -- 6-foot-2, 200 pounds --power forward with skill.

In his second development camp, Svechnikov felt much better prepared.

"It’s feeling great, actually," Svechnikov said. "More comfortable, know everybody, know lots of guys now. It's just very exciting."

In his quest to improve, Svechnikov can sometimes be a little too hard on himself.

"In practice he was getting frustrated with himself because maybe a couple passes weren’t on," Nelson said. "He’s got to take a step back and just take a breath and relax. Sometimes you have to let the game come to you and that’s a learning process for a young player. He’s got an extremely high skill set, I love his size, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s got good speed. He has all the pieces. It’s just a matter of refining his skills."

Svechnikov said he wants to get stronger and faster and improve his skating ability by the time he gets to Grand Rapids this fall.

"Evgeny knows what he needs to work on," said Jiri Fischer, the Wings' director of player development. "He’s a fierce competitor. He is as good as anybody we’ve had in camp retrieving pucks, battling for loose pucks, trying to jump on loose pucks, playing really fast in the offensive zone, moving the puck really well. I think with his competitive nature he will find his niche in pro hockey and evaluating in camp here, it’s unfair to lots of players where we’re playing 4-on-4 and 3-on-3. That’s not the full picture of the game and I really like what he brings to the table."

If Svechnikov develops as planned, he could soon be playing for the Wings at the new Little Caesars Arena, set to open in the 2017-18 season.

Svechnikov's only regret is that his fellow Russian, Pavel Datsyuk, won't be there as Datsyuk decided to retire from the NHL to return home to play in the KHL.

"A little bit sad for me because I just have a little dream to step on ice with him and a little skating, want him to show me some stuff," Svechnikov said. "But it didn't happen. I'm just wishing him the best luck and be healthy, just the legend back home."

Home is coming soon to Svechnikov as his younger brother Andrei signed with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks and their mother, Elena, is coming over to live with Andrei.

"My mom come over, my dad going to visit us," Svechnikov said. "He work in Russia. It’s very exciting. My mom is going to live with my brother. She gonna visit me a lot. I’m gonna go there and she gonna come. So it’s good. Everybody closer. Just happy, family is family."

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