In a little under two weeks, Andrei Svechnikov will be showcasing his skills with the rest of the game’s top talent at the NHL All-Star Game in south Florida.
It was the Russian star’s first — and certainly won’t be last — time being selected to the NHL All-Star roster, thanks in part to leading the Carolina Hurricanes in goals this season as well as just his overall viral goal-scoring history.
Svechnikov currently leads the team in goals with 19 and is third in total scoring with 37 points, and who can forget the magic that was the NHL’s first and second ever lacrosse goals.
“I’m excited to play with everyone,” Svechnikov said. “There’s a lot of unbelievable players and I’m especially just excited to go there and meet with the Russian guys. I know it’s going to be fun.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the All-Star game is being held in one of his favorite spots.
“I’ve been going there pretty much every offseason,” Svechnikov said of the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area. “Spend a couple of weeks just relaxing there. I’ve got a few friends there and it’s going to be fun obviously. It’s just warm and there’s so many Russian people as well. I’m super excited.”
Svechnikov started off the season hot, scoring all 19 of his goals and registering 32 points in the first 36 games, but has seen his pace cool since then, with just five points and no goals in his last ten games.
“It’s been a little bit [frustrating],” Svechnikov said of his recent goal drought. “Obviously, I want to score. Everyone does. But I’m going to keep trying. You never have enough [goals]. Just going to work hard and hopefully I get rewarded.”
It certainly hasn’t been from a lack of trying, as Svechnikov leads the team in shots on goal, but he just hasn’t been lucky with finding twine as of late.
“When you don’t [score], it just kind of is frustrating, but you’ve just got to stick with the game and do your job.”
For Svechnikov though, it’s a bit easier to do that job and make his presence felt in a game even if he’s not scoring, due to his physicality.
The fifth-year winger currently sits second on the team in hits with 92, just a single one behind the big-bodied captain, Jordan Staal.
“When those points don’t come or you don’t feel the game, if you go out there and try hit something or someone, it helps you kind of wake up and be like, ‘Come on, let’s go.’”
Svechnikov has always been comfortable throwing his weight around, but you can really see him using his size more and more to his advantage this year, beyond just throwing a hit. His ability to protect the puck with his body or work opponents off of them has come a long way.
Another aspect of Svechnikov’s game that had been seeing vast improvements is his penalty differential. He has currently drawn the most penalties out of everyone on the Canes — and is 15th in the league in drawn calls (20) — and until recently, was taking a lot less infractions.
“I feel like I am more experienced,” Svechnikov said back in late November. “There would have been some not great penalties the last few years with slashing a guy or something, but I’ve been more experienced with that for sure.”
However, it’s perhaps not a coincidence that his goal drought has coincided with an uptick in penalties taken, with ten of his 21 infractions this season coming in the last 11 games.
Frustrations mount when you aren’t scoring and a lot of the time, those emotions will boil over much quicker.
The best example of that would be the major penalty Svechnikov was assessed for his dangerous cross-check of Brandon Duhaime late in one of the Hurricanes’ most recent games against the Minnesota Wild.
“He’s been doing much better this year, but he’s gotta dial it down,” Brind’Amour said following that game.
Despite those recent concerns, Svechnikov has been a driving force for the Hurricanes all season and is one of the main reasons why they sit atop the Metropolitan Division. His unique blend of size, skill and grit makes him one of the more impressive players in the league to watch.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest turning points for the franchise was when he was drafted second overall in 2018, and so finally he will be getting the chance to showcase all the talent that Carolina has been clamoring about as an NHL All-Star.