After being selected with the second overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft, expectations were high for Andrei Svechnikov in his rookie year. His 20 goals as a rookie silenced most doubters and proved he was a natural NHL goal scorer, but the start to his sophomore season has been nothing short of spectacular.
Svechnikov is playing at a point-per-game pace and is set to blow his 37-point rookie campaign out of the water. He’s notched four goals in his last two contests, including his first two career power-play goals.
Svechnikov’s power-play marker’s were similar, but their differences showcase just how well the 19-year-old is processing the game right now.
Against Chicago, Svechnikov gets the puck from Dougie Hamilton and immediately picks his head up looking for a target.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford tilts his head ever so slightly to his left in order to peer around Olli Maatta, who is temporarily engaged with Erik Haula. The temptation to peek causes the rest of Crawford’s body to lean to the left, opening up the short side for a sniper to find. With his head up, Svechnikov sees the opening and makes no mistake short side.
Against Calgary, Haula again provides a net front presence. This time it forces Calgary netminder David Rittich to lean to his right in order to find the puck. Off another pass from Hamilton, Svechnikov recognizes which way the goaltender is leaning and fires the puck to the other side. It wasn’t as highlight-stealing as the other goal he scored on Tuesday - more on that shortly - but it was more important, as it won the game for the Hurricanes.
Also against Chicago, Svechnikov proved he isn’t just a flashy sniper, but can earn gritty goals as well. Engaged in a net front battle with former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, Svechnikov fights through a slash and earns a lucky bounce.
For a young player with a history of offensive zone penalties, the discipline not to retaliate and instead fight through is an encouraging sign.
The goal of the week, and likely the season, was a showcase of the talent and confidence Svechnikov possess. Many guys will practice a move like this. Some will even try to use it in four-goal games when there is little risk. But Svechnikov broke it out in the third period of a one-goal game.
Calgary’s defense is tired and running around. The defensemen actually read this play pretty well. They, like most defensmen in a Bill Peters’ system, are content to sit back on a one-goal lead. They stay in front of the net, covering the other Hurricanes and preventing Svechnikov from walking out into a high danger area. There is no real reason to pressure Svechnikov behind the net. After all, it’s nearly impossible to score from back there.
But not totally impossible.
Svechnikov is decisive, executing the lacrosse move as soon as he sees Rittich’s head spin to the opposite post. Rittich sees it coming and shoots his shoulder to the crossbar, but just isn’t quick enough to stop Svechnikov.
It was a sensational week for the 19-year-old and a showcase of what the Canes, and the rest of league, can expect for a long time to come.