Taken 19th overall at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft—with prospects like Jesper Wallstedt and Fabian Lysell still on the board—Fyodor Svechkov came into the Nashville organization with high expectations.
And just as his offensive skill was understated heading into the draft, so has his importance been to SKA Neva in the Russian VHL this season.
Svechkov began the 2021-22 season with a four-game stint in the KHL. But since then—other than a trip to the World Junior Championship and a four-game appearance in the MHL—the 18-year old center has been a key piece of a Neva team that finished second in the regular season and is up 2-0 in its first-round playoff series.
Skating alongside talents like Nikita Chibrikov, Maxim Groshev, and Ilya Ivantsov, Svechkov is third on the team in points per game and one of Neva’s most versatile players in all situations.
In 30 VHL games this year, Svechkov has scored nine goals and 31 points, including 16 primary points scored at even strength. Playing top-six minutes, Svechkov also recorded a 55.43% Corsi rating through seven games tracked.
Part of his great possession numbers is Svechkov’s (#90, white) diligence on the forecheck. He’s not the fastest skater, but he makes the most of his strides by attacking defenders with great angles and an active stick as seen above. After forcing a turnover, Svechkov keeps the play alive by again attacking the puck carrier with a great angle; he forces another error and sets up a good scoring chance.
Svechkov also helps mitigate mistakes on his own team with excellent awareness in the defensive zone. In the clip above, notice how quickly #90 stops and starts the second the puck heads in the other direction whereas many forwards would slowly circle back into the play. He executes a subtle stick lift and doesn’t panic with the puck but waits for his teammate to get a step ahead before igniting the neutral-zone transition.
Lacking an elite accelerating gear, Svechkov uses his cerebral nature to best his opponents as shown above. He disrupts his opponent’s zone entry then immediately attacks open ice to again start the transition. In the offensive zone, he maintains good puck support before backchecking well to impede any serious rush for the other team.
Another distinct aspect of Svechkov’s game is his transition and puck protection skills. While I have some reservations about how well he’ll fare against quicker competition, his zone exit and entry numbers speak for themselves: a 79.07% controlled zone exit success rate and a 68.00% controlled zone entry success rate at even strength.
Above is one of my favorite clips of Svechkov this season. He collects the puck while fending off a forechecker, uses his frame to maintain puck possession under heavy pressure, and creates separation with some nifty stickhandling and footwork. He’s then unafraid to attack three defenders, pulling a spectacular deke to get the puck in low and set up a goal.
Svechkov’s willingness to carry the puck into the offensive zone, no matter what, is backed up by the data I tracked: he chose to carry the puck in on 88.00% of his zone entries and maintained control on 75.00% of those attempts.
His transition success is often aided by his ability to deliver pucks with accuracy under pressure. As seen above, even when a forechecker is less than a step away, Svechkov delivers. When he gets a bad pass pre-zone entry, he adjusts on the fly—with some skill—to hand the puck right back to his teammate for a high-danger scoring chance.
While Svechkov certainly passes more than he shoots (13.27 primary shot assists per 60 vs. 12.67 shot attempts per 60), he’s still very much a threat to score.
His skating with his head up while carrying the puck, surveying the ice in transition, and the hand-eye coordination he’s equipped with allows him to confuse defenders and keep them guessing on whether he’ll pass or shoot with dangerously good results (as shown above and below).
While Svechkov may not play with the flare and flash of Chibrikov or Marat Khusnutdinov, his game is just as important to a team’s success. His footspeed or scoring totals won’t be the reason he succeeds in the KHL or NHL—however those will improve with time and added strength, but he’s got an elevated baseline to develop from due to his awareness, passing skills, defensive prowess, and puck protection ability.