If any concerns were surrounding Andrei Svechnikov entering year one of his eight-year contract extension, pretty much all of them have been put to rest in the early stages of the new year.
The 2020-21 campaign was a difficult one for Carolina’s young star. He went through long periods where it felt like everything went wrong for him. He didn’t get the bounces, his on-ice confidence wavered, and inconsistent production persisted as a result.
For someone like Svechnkov, though, those stretches can be disguised because of his raw talent. If he’s seeing ice time, pucks will end up in the back of the net, but it looks different. There’s less aggression in his play, he isn’t taking the puck to the net with confidence, and he often finds himself out of the loop defensively.
This year, it’s been an entirely different story.
Through 14 games, Svechnikov has 18 points and has failed to find the scoresheet in just two of those outings. That’s despite not scoring a goal in his last seven games after his torrid goal-scoring run to start the campaign (seven goals in the team’s first seven games).
It’s his most consistent streak of offensive production since his 2019-20 sophomore season, wherein he had points in 13 of 15 February games.
While his offense gets the most attention, and deservedly so, his overall defensive contributions have been the standout in his game so far.
We apologize to anyone who tuned in late— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 14, 2021
Not really, though pic.twitter.com/FMKMiTgHXf
He’s more active in the defensive zone with his stick and his body, he’s forechecking hard, and it’s his engagement on the backcheck that helps lead to momentum-changing plays in games, just like he had against the St. Louis Blues.
The development of his complete game makes it so that he is still noticeable all over the ice even when he goes seven games without scoring a goal. Offensively, it can be through his underrated playmaking ability in finding his teammates and having the puck confidence to drive to the net and create chaos in front of opposing goalies.
After what was, by all accounts, a disappointing junior season in the league, Svechnikov has been flexing his muscles in year four, and he’s doing it at an opportune time. He leads the Hurricanes in points with 18 through 14 games, and the team remains in a comfy spot atop the Metropolitan Division standings.
Now, the focus is on whether he can stop taking so many penalties.
Seth Jarvis Ain’t Going Anywhere
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Carolina’s newest teenage wonder is here to stay, even if the hockey gods are doing all they can to keep him off the scoresheet.
He had goals called off in consecutive games last week, but he wasn’t going to be robbed for a third time in Vegas last night.
Jarvy for the lead!! pic.twitter.com/z6coPD2mMy— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) November 17, 2021
In my personal record book, that was Jarvis’ fifth NHL goal. He’s had two “actual goals,” but I’m counting his two waived-off goals and his point-blank shot that bounced off of a defenseman in this debut against the Arizona Coyotes as well. Just because I want to.
His game is clearly not that of an ordinary 19-year-old player, and that isn’t surprising if you kept up with him in his short stint with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL last season before returning to the Portland Winterhawks.
I don’t see any reason for him to make that same trip again. He’s here, and he’s ready.
Through seven games, Jarvis has posted a corsi-for rating above 54% six times. In recent games, Rod Brind’Amour has even entrusted him as a first-line player, taking shifts next to now-established stars in Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho.
The results have been pretty good in the early going, though they’ve played just under 35 minutes together at 5-on-5. It’s had its ups and downs, but the offensive output has been promising. That trio has generated plus-4 scoring chance and high-danger shot attempt differentials while controlling 55.84% of the on-ice shot attempts.
Only time will tell if that is a line that gets deployed over the long term, but Jarvis has certainly shown that he can keep up with the high-skill players on this team. On the flip side of that, he also played very well in a fourth-line role. He has put his versatility on display in the early days of what will be a long NHL career.
Ryan went into great detail about Jarvis’ performance to this point, reaching the same conclusion I’m at. He belongs.
The top-six of Carolina’s forward group has been consistently dangerous, but the bottom-six has quietly put together a dominant showing of puck possession and 200-foot play through the first six weeks of the season.
The third line has been just about picture-perfect. Even after losing Nino Niederreiter to injury, Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast didn’t miss a beat. They have 57.22 and 56.32 expected goal rates at 5-on-5, respectively, and they are rarely on the ice for a goal against.
In ~162 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time for both players, Fast has been on the ice for ten goals for and one goal against. Staal has been on the ice for eight goals for and two goals against. These are the guys that get assigned the most challenging matchups on a nightly basis, and they have been outrageously good. Niederreiter was back on the left side of that third line in his return to the lineup last night in Vegas.
Last season wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the combination of Staal and Fast. They got some bounces and were undoubtedly very competent on the third line, but their micro-stats weren’t what you’d expect them to be. This year, they have been better than you’d hope they would be.
The fourth line has also been stellar since the opening puck drop of the regular season. Derek Stepan and Steven Lorentz are first and second among all Canes skaters in expected goals for, and they have dominated puck possession and high-danger scoring chances when they’ve been on the ice.
Jordan Martinook isn’t far behind them, either.
You have to roll four lines and get the most out of a litany of players to get off to a 12-2-0 start, and that’s exactly what has happened for the Hurricanes. Combining the offensive proficiency of the top-six with the dominant puck-possession play of the bottom-six is a recipe for success.
It might even be the recipe for a real Stanley Cup contender.