International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia’s next wunderkind?

Russia’s next wunderkind?

Svechnikov focuses on hockey, not the draft

Published 15.08.2018 01:05 GMT-4 | Author Slava Malamud
Russia’s next wunderkind?
Andrei Svechnikov celebrates a goal with his teammates. Photo: Steve Kingsman / HHOF-IIHF Images
For Russia the World Juniors ended early but the team had one of the most talented draft-eligible players with Andrei Svechnikov.

One thing Andrei Svechnikov didn’t really enjoy talking about at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship is the upcoming NHL draft. He is aware that the questions aren’t going anywhere, this being North America, and particularly Buffalo whose Sabres could land an early draft pick in 2018.

There is also the fact that Svechnikov is one of few Russian draft-eligible players and a very highly touted one at that. There is every indication that he is a top-10 prospect at least. At most, he could be picked first.

Svechnikov claims he doesn’t think about the draft too much. When he isn’t claiming that, Russia’s media officer was happy to, often shooing away the press after too many NHL-related questions.

“I try not to focus on this right now”, says Svechnikov, who estimated he was being asked about this topic six or seven times in the first couple of days in Buffalo. “Of course, I’d like to be picked first, but it’s not like I am thinking about it day in and day out.”

Svechnikov, however, will readily admit that he wants to play in the NHL next year and would much prefer this outcome to going to Europe or spending more time in the juniors. As for which team would draft him, it truly doesn’t matter. While some of his teammates felt Buffalo was too wintry and snowy for them, Svechnikov said it was just a normal city and that he “really didn’t understand what all the criticism is all about.” After all, he’s used to snow and ice from playing in Canada and from his old home in Kazan.

One person who isn’t giving Svechnikov star treatment and clearly doesn’t care about his NHL prospects is Russia’s head coach Valeri Bragin, who wasn’t giving the talented youngster a lot of playing time.

“I am playing as much as the coach lets me,” said Svechnikov. “But I am not angry or sad about it. Bragin knows what he is doing. Besides, the one time he let me play on a penalty kill, we got scored on, and it was my mistake. So, I don’t think about my playing time. I have to make the best use of what time I have.”

Speaking of Bragin, his one consistent complaint about the team was its lack of international experience. A lot of the players on the roster had never played at the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, which is something Bragin believes is important for a U20 player. One can’t say this about Svechnikov.

The player who went through the Ak Bars Kazan system and is with the OHL’s Barrie Colts now has played at the U18 twice and is still eligible for his third try, on home ice, when the tournament comes to Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk in April.

“I really don’t care much about being the youngest player on the U20 team”, he said. “And I wouldn’t mind playing at the U18 again. If my team is knocked out of the Memorial Cup competition and if I am free to go, I will, of course.”

That, on top of everything else that’s going to happen, would certainly make for an eventful year in the 17-year-old’s life, but the mature-beyond-his-age Svechnikov really does look like he has a pretty sold grip on things.

When he gives his standard answers to the draft questions, Svechnikov says he isn’t really being dishonest. All of his thoughts truly are on hockey and the goals he has set for himself. If anything else, that’s one quality all those NHL front offices are going to like. Sorry for bringing this up again, Andrei.


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