After this weekend’s NHL draft, Hurricanes fandom is abuzz with excitement and expectations for the beginning of Andrei Svechnikov’s career. It seems reasonable to expect Svechnikov to step in and contribute right away, with scouts and prospect experts alike saying he’s NHL ready. Most also peg Svechnikov to be a consistent 30-40 goal scorer, but it’s probably unreasonable to expect that from him coming out of his draft year… or is it?
Top picks have certainly had a track record of contributing right away, and the Canes saw Jeff Skinner step right into the lineup and score 31 goals to win the Calder Trophy out of his draft year. So all this got me wondering, what is reasonable to expect from Svechnikov in year one?
To help answer that, I’m going to look at each second overall pick since the Canes last made the playoffs in 2009, whether or not they made the immediate jump, what they contributed and how their teams did.
A couple notes before we start: this list is only looking at what the player did coming out of their draft year. So while, say, Tyler Seguin’s career has blossomed in Dallas, I’m only interested in his rookie year in Boston. It should also be noted that while I am going to look at these teams’ performances in the standings those years, before the recent changes to the lottery, the team picking second finished last or second to last in the league. The Canes were slated to pick 11th after finishing in the middle of the pack, and are much closer to making the leap than most of these teams were coming out of their draft.
With those parameters in mind, let’s get started.
2009: Victor Hedman, defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning- Hedman made the immediate jump despite being a defenseman, a position that usually takes longer to develop. The Swedish blueliner played 74 games and put up four goals and 20 points for the Lightning in 2009-10. The Bolts made a considerable improvement, finishing with 80 points compared to 66 the year before, eight points outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
2010: Tyler Seguin, center, Boston Bruins- Seguin, moving to right wing from his natural center position in his first year, made a moderate contribution to a deep Bruins lineup, putting up 11 goals and 22 points in 74 regular-season games.
Seguin added three goals and seven points in 13 playoff games, as the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley. Boston was in a somewhat similar position entering the 2010 draft to the Canes this year and the Flyers last, holding a top-two pick despite not being a bottom feeder. The Bruins obtained the Seguin pick from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade.
2011: Gabriel Landeskog, left wing, Colorado Avalanche- Landeskog was ready to roll coming out of his draft season. The Swedish power forward put up 22 goals, 52 points and a plus 20 in 2011-12, and took home the Calder Trophy (continuing a two-year trend of Kitchener Rangers winners as he took home the award the year after Skinner).
The Avalanche made a 20-point jump in the standings from the year prior, finishing seven points shy of the Western cutline with 88.
2012: Ryan Murray, defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets- Murray needed another year of seasoning, and did not make his NHL debut until the following year.
2013: Aleksander Barkov, center, Florida Panthers- Barkov had a modest rookie season in 2013-14, with eight goals and 24 points in 54 games as his first year was cut short by a knee injury.
The Finnish pivot’s debut did not bring a major improvement for the Panthers, who finished the year with 66 points, second worst in the league, after 36 in the 48-game, lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (prorated 62 points).
2014: Sam Reinhart, center, Buffalo Sabres- Reinhart got his “nine-game trial” with Buffalo to start the 2014-15 season before the Sabres elected to send him back to junior without burning a year of his entry-level contract.
2015: Jack Eichel, center, Buffalo Sabres- The poor Sabres picked second despite having the best lottery odds two years in a row. While their epic tank job in 2014-15 did not land them the ultimate reward in Connor McDavid, Eichel wasn’t a bad consolation prize. The American center posted 24 goals and 56 points in his first season with the Sabres and finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting.
It would have been hard for Buffalo not to improve on its season before picking Eichel, and indeed the Sabres jumped 27 points, from 54 to 81.
2016: Patrik Laine, right wing, Winnipeg Jets- Laine represents the high end of Svechnikov’s potential for this year, and Canes fans would be thrilled to see him follow in the footsteps of another big European with a reputation for scoring goals. The Finnish phenom had 36 goals and 64 points in 73 games as a rookie, showing off the devastating shot that made him such a coveted prospect. Laine finished second to Auston Matthews for the Calder Trophy in 2017.
The Jets also experienced a bit of lottery luck in the first year of the new format, as their 78 points put them on track for the sixth pick. In Laine’s first year, they jumped to 87 points, and were the top team outside the Western Conference playoff picture, missing the cut by seven.
2017: Nolan Patrick, center, Philadelphia Flyers- The Flyers got even luckier than the Canes, jumping from pick 12 to two via the lottery. In what was viewed as a “weak draft” by many, the Flyers still got a good center in Patrick.
Patrick played 73 games for the Flyers last season, and was a solid contributor as a rookie with 13 goals and 30 points. He added a goal and two points in a six-game loss to Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs.
Final thoughts: History is on the Canes’ side here. Since 2009, all but two of the second overall picks, only one of which was a forward, made the jump coming out of their draft year. While only three topped 50 points, each player is different, and Svechnikov is one of the most physically mature prospects in recent memory. He certainly has the upside to have a rookie year similar to Landeskog or Laine. As big, European wingers, those are the two most comparable recent second-overall picks, which bodes well for Svechnikov. 20-25 goals and 40-50 points is a reasonable expectation, and Svechnikov could flirt with 30/60 in his first year.
And while only two teams since 2009 have made the playoffs after picking second, the new lottery system is likely to change that over time. The Canes are coming off a far better season than most of these teams, and Svechnikov could definitely help lead the team to its first postseason appearance in nine seasons.