Carolina Hurricanes: How is Andrei Svechnikov’s rookie season going?

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 31: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes participates in the Storm Surge with teammates after a victory over the Philadelphia Flyers during an NHL game on December 31, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 31: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes participates in the Storm Surge with teammates after a victory over the Philadelphia Flyers during an NHL game on December 31, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

As the Carolina Hurricanes prepare for a crucial run of games that will decide their playoff future, one player they need to be firing on all cylinders is rookie superstar Andrei Svechnikov. But how is his rookie season going?

When the Carolina Hurricanes drafted Andrei Svechnikov with the second pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, fans were unsure whether he would make the Canes out of training camp, or whether we’d have to wait to see him in the NHL. Svech had an excellent camp, made the team, and has had moments of brilliance this season. He has also suffered scoring droughts and dips in confidence – but there’s no need to sorry about his development.

His basic numbers are good

Svech now has 50 NHL games under his belt. He’s looked elite in some and pedestrian in others – but it’s worth remembering that this is already more games than he’s ever played in a regular season. His two OHL seasons with the Barrie Colts saw regular seasons of 48GP and 44GP. We can’t expect Svech to be lights-out every night when his body has never faced such rigors.

Despite the fatigue factor, Svech has posted 12 goals and 10 assists over those 50 games, averaging 14:43 per game and rocking a positive Corsi of 55.5%. Only four Carolina Hurricanes forwards have posted more hits than Svech, and only three have blocked more shots. He’s so much more than a scorer – under Rod Brind’Amour’s tutelage, he’s learning how to be a complete hockey player.

He is also just one goal shy of joint-second on the team, and sits 6th in team scoring. Not bad for an 18 year-old rookie.

His advanced stats are good

As stated above, Svech has a positive Corsi rating of 55.5%, good for 6th amongst Carolina Hurricanes forwards. Among NHL forwards who have played at least 10 games, Svech is joint-42nd in the entire league. When he is on the ice, he’s having an impact. His expected plus/minus is 6th amongst NHL forwards, with Justin Williams and Lucas Wallmark two of the five players ahead of him. One could argue that bad puck luck has stopped him registering more points than he already has.

Svech is having a very good first year in the NHL. He’s not playing alongside a Brock Boeser (as Elias Pettersson is), or a Mark Stone (as Brady Tkachuk is). He’s driving the play himself, improving his team mates, and learning what it takes to compete at the top level from an early age, from one of the very best. This season is how rookie seasons are meant to unfold – discover your taste for scoring, but learn how to battle for pucks, hustle, and how to read the game. Svech has handled the jump from the OHL with considerable ease, and we should all be excited about what the future holds for him.

His intangibles are good

Unlike some rookies in the NHL, there have been no rumors of bad behaviour, complacency, or an attitude problem. He has forged excellent chemistry with many of his team mates on the ice – particularly newly-extended Canes forward Jordan Martinook – and the team knows that Svech is going to be a superstar for them for many years. The way they went to his defence when the Vancouver Canucks attempted to take liberties with him shows how much Svech has integrated with the team.

He also didn’t retreat into his shell when suffering his long scoring drought. Over December and January, Svech posted just one goal in a 14-game stretch; this came on the heels of a purple patch where he scored four goals and two assists in six games. Throughout that 14-game spell, Svech continued to battle and work hard, to chase pucks and hit opponents. His breakthrough came with a goal and two assists in a huge win over the Edmonton Oilers – but it was his tenacity, and work ethic, that kept Svech going. Many rookies would have lowered their heads and suffered, but Svech kept plugging away and got his reward.

His comparisons are good

If we ignore first-line players Pettersson and Tkachuk, Svech compares very favorably to other rookies this season. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has one more point than Svech through 50 games, and Buffalo’s Casey Mittlestadt has just 15 points after being touted as a difference-maker. Kotkaniemi’s Corsi For is even better than Svech’s, but he’s doing it with more o-zone starts and better linemates; Mittelstadt is playing more than 73% of shifts from the o-zone, but still has a negative Corsi For of 47.7%.

There was a time when Canes fans – us included – were calling for Svech to be put alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the Carolina Hurricanes’ top line. Since the acquisition of Nino Niederreiter a couple of weeks ago, there is less need to force Svech into the team’s top six – he can still contribute, and dazzle on occasion, from the relative safety of the third line. No-one can take the Calder Trophy away from Pettersson, but Svech is a candidate for a top five finish, and that’s a good place to be.

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It’s clear that Rod Brind’Amour has a plan for Andrei Svechnikov’s development; far too many rookies are brought into the league at a young age, given top six minutes with the equivalent expectations, then crash and burn. No-one wants to become the new Edmonton Oilers, after all.

Svech is being brought along slowly – and while we may have to wait a little while longer before he becomes a consistent scorer, there is no doubt that Svech is a key contributor for the Carolina Hurricanes. He is going to score many, many goals for this franchise – and if fans show similar patience to that of Rod’s, he’ll be able to develop at the right pace and become the devastating scorer we’ve already seen he can be.