The pride of Tolyatti, Russia, Svechkov is considered one of the best two-way forwards in the draft this year. Ranked in TWC’s Consolidated 2021 NHL Draft Rankings at 29, Svechkov brings a ton of skills on the defensive end, and has strong offensive potential up front. With a strong year split between the VHL and MHL in Russia, as well as an incredible World U18s this year, Svechkov could be called far earlier than most have him. Let’s break it all down.
Who is Fyodor Svechkov?
Born on April 5, 2003, Svechkov is on the younger side of his draft, but not by much. Age aside, he is not one of the smaller guys. Svechkov stands a tall 6’0″ and weighs in at 179 pounds. He uses this size well to get into corners and fight to get to the danger areas on the ice. A left-shot centre who can play the wing, Svechkov is a reasonably versatile player who compares favourably to Philip Danault.
He grew up in Tolyatti in Russia, the hometown of Ilya Bryzgalov, and spent his entire career with the local team: Lada Togliatti. Interestingly, the club’s highest team is in the VHL, having been expelled from the KHL due to an insufficient arena. This is one of the reasons he, unlike many other Russian first-round prospects, has not played in the KHL so far in his career. Svechkov will join the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg for the 2021–22, where he will play alongside former Flame Oscar Fantenberg.
Fyodor Svechkov’s on-ice production
So far his numbers have been incredibly good. The VHL is most comparable to the AHL (read TWC’s guide to international hockey leagues for more context), and Svechkov spent most of the season playing against men, where he put up decent numbers. Take a look at the last few years below.
|2018–19||D-2||Russia U18||Lada Togliatti U18||26||16||27||43|
|2018–19||D-1||Russia U18||Lada Togliatti U18||2||1||2||3|
What is most interesting about Svechkov’s game is how he has been able to produce with relative ease in every league he has played in. From U18 as a 16-year-old, to the MHL, then this year to the VHL, Svechkov has handled himself well at every level. This season, he was one of just nine players under 18 years old to play in the VHL, and he finished second among the group. He was even ahead of Nikita Chibrikov, the other Russian expected to go in the first round.
Svechkov then joined Team Russia at the World U18s this year in Texas, where he finished the tournament with four goals and six assists in seven games. This was good for tenth in the entire tournament, and was sixth among all draft-eligible skaters this year. And while this is a small sample, Svechkov elevated his game when it really mattered, and showed he could perform in a best-on-best tournament. Not bad for a two-way forward.
Fyodor Svechkov’s strengths
Svechkov may be one of the most tenacious and hardworking players in the draft this year. His never-give-up attitude mixed with a very high hockey IQ makes him dangerous anytime he is on the ice. This is complemented by his skating, which is fast and quite smooth. While he does have to work on his crossovers (something the Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane could teach him if he gets selected by Calgary), Svechkov is really quite fast when skating linearly and can burn defenders on the rush.
It’s the first round and if you’re not fast, you’re probably not getting selected, but what sets Svechkov apart is his ability to make such smart plays with his speed. Check out this clip where he (wearing #9) uses his speed to draw two defenders towards him in mid flight, then makes a pass to his open partner for a wide open look:
Svechkov’s skating combined with silky smooth hands allow him to do just incredible things on the ice. He is one of the better players in the draft in terms of his transition play, finding his way through the neutral zone and gaining the offensive zone. He is smart enough to know where the oppositions will try and cut him off, and he keeps his head up and his feet moving to evade them. Take a look at this slightly broken play in which Svechkov misses the first pass, but turns around, looks up ice and plans his move:
His methodical nature and knowing what he wants to do and not forcing the play is a sign of his maturity and ability to create chances out of nothing. Even the way he does a soft dump into the corner, knows exactly where it’s going, retrieves it himself, and then passes it back to his teammate at the blueline is just a great, great play by the young player.
Like all first-round picks, he scores beautiful goals, makes incredible assists, and has great hands, but what he has that others may not is an undying commitment to the play. He is tenacious—not giving up on plays or on the puck—even when it looks like the other team has control. This is something that you cannot buy in a player, and it’s what sets a guy like Svechkov apart. Check out this incredible play by him from earlier this season:
He is such a gifted player, with all the right skills to make himself into a premier two-way second line guy in the NHL in a few years. Finally, just for fun, check out this beautiful goal he scores after winning the puck back in his own zone. Follow #9 all the way from start to finish:
Fyodor Svechkov’s areas of improvement
If he’s being raved about this highly, why is he ranked so low on the list as compared to other skaters? There are a couple of reasons. First, Svechkov still has not seen the high-level competition that some others in this draft have. He has still not faced KHL competition, and while he has looked good in the VHL, his abilities will be tested more when he makes the transition to the KHL next season.
Secondly, Svechkov does have a few elements of his game to work on. Most importantly is his offensive decision-making. He has a tendency to shoot the puck a bit too often and from random places on the ice, which not only rarely goes in, but then allows the other team to take the puck the other way. He could also use some work on his shot—which is objectively good—but he needs some more muscle to beat goalies from further out. That being said, his playmaking and ability to get in tight have allowed him to be successful thus far.
Finally, his next few years are going to be interesting and may present a risk to whoever drafts him. Svechkov is at least a couple years away from the NHL, and has signed a deal with SKA St. Petersburg to play in the KHL. However, because that team is so strong, there are questions about how much playing time he will get, given his age and experience. This may hinder his development, at least until he comes over to North America. While he can always be loaned to a VHL club for a couple of years, expect this to be a big question mark for him over the next few years.
Fit with the Flames
A fast, two-way skater with a high hockey IQ and an undying effort? Sounds a lot like someone that the Flames would love. As a team, the Flames like guys who have a good attitude and can play a strong defensive game (see Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier as prime examples), and Svechkov could be just the right type of player for the club.
Similar to how some relationships fall apart, the problem isn’t him, it’s the circumstances. He has performed well at the U18s and in the VHL, but his next few years are going to be challenging. The risk of him not getting enough playing time then the Flames having to wait for him even longer to mature in the AHL starting in 2023-24 is a big risk. And while he can probably get playing time in the VHL, it just isn’t the same at all.
With the 12th overall pick, the Flames will want a player that has an easier development path than Svechkov, and this makes it unlikely he gets drafted by the Flames in the first round. Svechkov fits the bill as a player who could fall out of the first round and into the second or possibly even the third round, simply because of the insecurity around his future. If he falls to them in the third round, he could go from being a unwise gamble to an absolute steal in a few years.
There is a lot to like about Svechkov’s game. He’s a strong two-way skater with excellent hands and a nose for the net. He does not give up on plays, and projects to be a centre in the NHL down the road. While he does have a lot of question marks around him, he may be a dark horse pick in the second or third round. Unfortunately, there is too much risk for the Flames or any other team to take him early in the first round. If he does end up a first-rounder, expect him to be selected late, and not by Calgary.
Projection: Middle-six scoring forward
Previously: William Eklund, Dylan Guenther, Cole Sillinger, Jesper Wallstedt, Kent Johnson, Simon Robertsson, Fabian Lysell, Aatu Räty, Carson Lambos, Simon Edvinsson, Chaz Lucius, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Corson Ceulemans, Francesco Pinelli, Oskar Olausson, Xavier Bourgault, Zachary L’Heureux, Matthew Coronato, Zachary Bolduc, Logan Stankoven, Sebastian Cossa, Nikita Chibrikov
Featured image created with Venngage.