In the months leading up to the NHL Draft this past June, almost all of the national media attention was focused on what was dubbed the Dahlin Sweepstakes. Rasmus Dahlin was crowned the best defensive prospect in at least a decade and the clear frontrunner for the first overall selection. And his 11 points (2g, 9a) through 22 games, leading all rookie defensemen, goes to show that he’s capable of a long, lucrative career in the NHL.
But while all of the cameras were focused on Dahlin and his exceptional play in the SHL, Andrei Svechnikov was quitely putting together one of the hottest rookie OHL seasons in league history. In his 44 games played for the Barrie Colts, Svechnikov scored goals at a higher rate than any other rookie player in the modern NHL era.
And similarly to Dahlin, Svechnikov has proven that he’s elite enough for his talent to transfer directly into the NHL at 18 years old. With five goals through 21 games, Svechnikov is tied for fourth among NHL rookies and second in his draft class behind a streaking Brady Tkachuk (whose shooting percentage is nearly 20%).
But the most exciting thing about the young Russian goal scorer isn’t the goals he’s scored, but some the incredible chances that he’s afforded himself that haven’t ended up in the back of the net.
I was at work, making graphs and drinking wine. pic.twitter.com/7S23j3SAnz— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 22, 2018
In what turned out to be his most dominant game as a Hurricane on Wednesday night against Toronto, Svechnikov recorded eight shots on goal. The large patch of blue you see crowded around the right side of the crease above are indicative of a great goal scorer with a knack for finding grade A scoring chances. That missed shot in the high slot? That one rang off the crossbar in what felt like the 50th time Svechnikov beat the goalie but not the iron.
The eye test tells me that Svechnikov is creating shots at an incredibly high rate, and the numbers support that. He’s logged 46 shots through 21 games — good for first among NHL rookie forwards despite sitting at 14th in total ice time among that group (FWIW, Warren Foegele is second in the league in rookie forward ice time). And he’s not just generating high volume shots. Svechnikov’s shots are also consistently high danger in nature, as he leads all rookie forwards in individual High Danger Corsi For (iHDCF). You can say the same thing about individual scoring chances for and rebounds created. By almost every metric, Andrei Svechnikov is an elite member of this rookie class.
Svechnikov has been sheltered early on in his rookie campaign by coach Rod Brind’Amour, as he’s 10th amonst Canes forwards in ice time. He’s last on the team in terms of “regular” forwards, and the players below him in TOI are guys like Valentin Zykov, Phil Di Giuseppe, and other players who have been in and out of the lineup this season.
Despite his limited minutes, Svechnikov leads Canes forwards in iHDCF and rebounds created, and is just fourth on the team in total shots. It may be time for the young Russian to step into a greater role in the offense, and that process appears to be in motion already as he’s steadily been accruing more ice time per game over the past few weeks. Andrei Svechnikov is as good of a rookie as Carolina has ever had, and he’s just getting started.