Exhibition season provides a perfect time for Detroit Red Wings prospect Evgeny Svechnikov to work on areas in which he needs to improve: Speeding up and slowing down simultaneously.
The 20-year-old first-round pick from 2015 is entering his second season of pro hockey on a comfortable and confident note after reaching 20 goals last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He spent the offs-eason working on his skating.
“I needed to get quicker and get my feet moving,” Svechnikov said Wednesday. “I was working a lot to get my feet moving and those areas where I need to get quicker, especially neutral zone. I was trying to work on that.”
Svechnikov was scheduled to play in the evening exhibition game at Pittsburgh on a line with veterans Frans Nielsen and Darren Helm. The Wings have pressed home the message to Svechnikov, 20, that he needs to move his feet more while quieting his brain.
“To be a really good player at this level, he has to to make sure that he plays with pace,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He has to make sure that he keeps his stick on the ice so he stays away from hooking penalties, and then he has to slow the game down a little bit for himself. That is a hard challenge, to play with pace, meaning move your feet, but slow the game down meaning slow your thinking down.”
Nielsen said young players have to learn how to slow the game down. “It is a fast-paced game and you see a lot of those kids and how fast they are playing. Some things you learn as it goes. But he plays hard, he is a big body, he goes to the net. You definitely need those kinds of guys, too.
“He is one of those guys who is tough to play against in the corners – he will come out with the puck. He competes hard.”
Henrik Zetterberg is a great example of a guy who can slow the game down, and Dylan Larkin has talked about how much he learns from watching Zetterberg control the game. But Larkin is an incredibly fast skater. Svechnikov learning curve is different.
“It’s not necessarily playing at different paces like Zetterberg does, where Zetterberg is able to kind of bring the game down to his pace,” Blashill said. “Svech needs to get the pace up with his feet, he needs to get the puck and make sure his is moving, he needs to skate away from the puck. But the game in his head has to slow down. That generally only comes from experience.
“Svech wants to be good so bad, he wants it so bad, he works so hard. When guys want it that bad, sometimes they have to relax a little bit. This is a great opportunity for Svech during the preseason to just play games and see how he does. Let’s not put lots of pressure on him and let’s just see how he does.”
Svechnikov is slotted to start the season in Grand Rapids. He finished his first season there with a Calder Cup championship, and is now eager to start his second season on a head-turning clip. That’s what he saw Anthony Mantha do last autumn, with eight goals his first 10 games, leading to a call from the Wings.
“It is great example,” Svechnikov said. “I want to be that one guy, I want to be the first call up. I want to do my best. I am going to bring everything I have. I want to be an every day’er.”