The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is 25 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 11 today.
About Florida's Prospect Pool
The cliché is that good teams are built up the middle. Like any cliché, you've heard this about 1,000 times. Unlike a lot of clichés, this one is actually right. Look at the final four teams this year. They're littered with elite-level talent at center and defense.
This actually portends well for the future of the Florida Panthers. Their young defensemen are a pretty good group, with Aaron Ekblad posting a ridiculous season for an 18-year-old defenseman leading the way. In addition to Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson in the NHL, first-round picks Ian McCoshen and Mike Matheson are skilled defensive prospects developing in college programs right now.
They're also very deep at center. Much like the Wild, the majority of Florida's marquee young forwards are in the NHL and not technically prospects, but they still bear mentioning. Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, and Aleksander Barkov is a hell of a trio to build upon, and they can all play center. Vincent Trocheck isn't quite that caliber of a prospect, but he played 50 games in the NHL as a 21-year-old, and his future is bright as well. As for players who don't have an NHL gig yet, Rocco Grimaldi, Jayce Hawryluk, and Kyle Rau round out Florida's incredible center pipeline.
But along the wing? That's a weakness, both at the NHL level and in the prospect pool. Here's a sample of Florida Panthers wingers that will be returning for next season.
- Jussi Jokinen (32)
- Brad Boyes (33)
- Shawn Thornton (38 on July 23)
- Jaromir Jagr (43)
About Evgeny Svechnikov
In case "Evgeny Svechnikov" didn't give it away, he's a Russian prospect. Usually around this time of year, there are people who are concerned that any Russian prospect will follow in the footsteps of an Alexander Radulov or Alexander Burmistrov and eventually bolt to the KHL. In Svechnikov's case, those fears can probably be put to bed.
After all, had Svechnikov wanted to make his living in the KHL, he would have only needed to stay with Kazan, who drafted him 2nd overall in the 2013 KHL Draft. Instead, he transferred over to Cape Breton of the QMJHL, opting for a traditional North American path to the NHL.
In the Q, Svechnikov established himself as a terror. 78 points (32G-46A) might not seem as gaudy as some of the other top draft-eligible prospects, especially for the high-scoring Quebec league, but he compiled that point total in just 55 games. In terms of points-per-game, his 1.42 mark places him within the Top-10 of the Q. Not bad for a rookie.
Svechnikov is a terror down the wing, but he's not a Jason Zucker-type that overwhelms the opposition with blistering speed. Instead, he's great at using his body (he's 6'3", 205 lbs) to maintain possession. But it doesn't end there. Once he has the puck, he creates offense with his skills, able to operate on the smaller North American ice, scoring and setting up teammates.
He does have a few drawbacks that leave him out of the top, top tier. For starters, he's merely a fine skater, lacking the elite skating of a Mathew Barzal or Travis Konecny. This is mitigated by his frame, skills, and mind, but it's still worth noting. Also, like a lot of gifted young offensive players, Svechnikov will have to continue making improvements defensively to realize his full potential. Still, he's an amazing talent that absolutely dominated his peers.
Svechnikov appears to be competing in a man-like frame- possessing both advantageous strength and power... He dangles through legs and sticks with ease. His best quality is [his] adaptability, knowing when to use his power game versus his skilled game. This two-way attacking ability only makes Svechnikov a more attractive prospect.
While a power forward, he is a new-age one like a Rick Nash and prefers to use his size and reach to create a distance between the puck and opponents as opposed to punishing players physically.
How He'd Fit With the Wild
Wild fans might have two reservations about Svechnikov. The first is that we'd all have to learn how to spell "Svechnikov". That's a very minor worry, however, because if we can all spell "Niederreiter" without thinking, we can pretty much learn how to spell anything.
The second isn't his talent, but his position. The Panthers are deep at center, thinner on the wing. The Wild's situation is the exact opposite. And while Florida can just move Huberdeau to the wing, it's a much, much harder transition to go from wing to center. If the Wild can't swing a trade to shore up their young center depth, the Wild's first-rounder this year might be where they have to address that particular organizational need.
This is likely to be a moot point, at least in Svechnikov's case, as he's frequently rated as a Top-15-20 prospect in this draft, which would likely put him out of reach for the Wild. But GMs are a tad gunshy about drafting Russians, which may cause him to fall into the 20th pick. Should Svechnikov be available for the Wild, his combination of size and skill may be impossible to pass up, organizational needs be damned.