SB Nation has been conducting a mock draft, where each NHL site has acted as General Manager for the team they represent. Here are the results, if you'd like to read along.
1. Edmonton Oilers- Connor McDavid, C (The Copper and Blue)
2. Buffalo Sabres- Jack Eichel, C (Die by the Blade)
3. Arizona Coyotes- Dylan Strome, C (Five For Howling)
4. Toronto Maple Leafs- Mitch Marner, RW (Pension Plan Puppets)
5. Carolina Hurricanes- Noah Hanifin, D (Canes Country)
6. New Jersey Devils- Matthew Barzal, C (In Lou We Trust)
7. Philadelphia Flyers- Ivan Provorov, D (Broad Street Hockey)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets- Zach Werenski, D (The Cannon)
9. San Jose Sharks- Pavel Zacha, C (Fear the Fin)
10. Colorado Avalanche- Mikko Rantanen, RW (Mile High Hockey)
11. Florida Panthers- Lawson Crouse, LW (Litter Box Cats)
12. Dallas Stars- Kyle Connor, C (Defending Big D)
13. Los Angeles Kings- Travis Konecny, C (Jewels from the Crown)
14. Boston Bruins- Timo Meier, RW (Stanley Cup of Chowder)
15. Calgary Flames- Jeremy Roy, D (Matchsticks and Gasoline)
16. Edmonton Oilers- Jakub Zboril, D (The Copper and Blue)
17. Winnipeg Jets- Nick Merkley, RW (Arctic Ice Hockey)
We considered three players for this spot. No doubt by the title of the article, you can tell that Evgeny Svechnikov was one of the contenders, but Daniel Sprong and Joel Eriksson Ek also merited strong consideration from Hockey Wilderness. Sprong is a fast, flashy goal-scorer on the wing, and Eriksson Ek is a two-way center with a good shot who has been playing against men in the Swedish Elite League.
This being a good, deep draft, there were players that would have absolutely been picked had they fallen to 18. Kyle Connor is a center who brings speed, goal-scoring, and defense. Travis Konecny has Granlund-like tenaciousness, combined with blistering speed and a great shot. Alas, they're both projected to go well before pick 18.
Ultimately, the Minnesota Wild were very pleased to select Evgeny Svechnikov, a Left Winger from the QMJHL's Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
About Evgeny Svechnikov
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 199 lbs
General Ranking: 16-23
Highest Ranking: 9th, Corey Pronman, ESPN
Lowest Ranking: 23rd, McKeen's Hockey
Svechnikov came over to North America this season, and immediately proceeded to destroy the Q. He finished out of the top-20 in the league in scoring due to playing only 55 games, but his 78 points places him within the Top-10 of the league in Points Per Game.
What should excite fans about Svechnikov is his combination of size, skills, and hockey sense. But don't take our word for it.
Incredibly skilled offensive winger. Has a remarkably accurate shot to go along with some magic hands. Could be better defensively, but his game is based around his acute sense of what is happening on the ice in the offensive zone. All-in-all, a deadly player who possesses good size, elite-level skill, and smooth skating.- Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
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.
Not afraid to get to the dirty areas and battle. 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.
He's not said to be a great defensive player at this stage of his career, but that should get better with age, as he isn't thought to have attitude concerns that plague, say, a guy like Daniel Sprong.
Will He Be Available at Pick 20?
It's possible, but hard to say. His rankings typically have him going just before 20, there are a myriad of factors that could bump him lower (team needs, scouts going against the consensus rankings, etc.). With as much talent as there is in the first round, projecting who could go where is just about anyone's guess, and he could go higher than 16- I liked him enough to take him 11th in the Hockey Wilderness Staff Mock Draft. Russian hockey players do tend to be a bit undervalued in the draft, though, so he might slip a bit due to that.
Why the Wild Will Draft Svechnikov
After getting lit up by Patrick Kane during Chicago's sweep of the Wild (5 goals in 4 games), and Vladimir Tarasenko (6 goals in 7 games), the Wild have to coveting that caliber of player. Looking around the Central Division, they have to be noticing that Colorado has Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene, Dallas has Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, and Nashville has Filip Forsberg. Even Winnipeg has Nikolaj Ehlers on the way.
Who's that forward for the Wild? While Zach Parise is very, very good, he's at the tail end of his prime. Among the young guys, Nino Niederreiter has the potential to be a great two-way player, I can't point to anyone on the Wild and say "He's a budding offensive superstar." Even among their prospects, the only high-upside guy is Tuch, who is currently projected to be a high-end, not elite power forward.
Svechnikov would be that high-upside guy the Wild so desperately need, and his all-around offensive game would be unmatched by anyone in the Wild organization, making him the ideal selection with this pick.
Why the Wild Will Pass on Svechnikov
I suppose it bears mentioning that under the Chuck Fletcher/Brent Flahr era, the Wild have not drafted a Russian player. Whether that's coincidence, or an organizational philosophy is unknown.
But the bigger issue for the Wild front office may be his position. He's not a center, and the Wild have an absolute dearth of centers in their organization, but are fairly deep on the wing at the NHL level. Furthermore, Chuck Fletcher's draft tables have tended to favor two-way players in the draft more than those who are most notable for their offensive upside (Matt Dumba being the one exception). Those two factors make me think that the Wild would instead look at Eriksson Ek or Colin White.
But this isn't their pick, it's Hockey Wilderness', and we're not going to pass up on the much-needed dynamism that Svechnikov can bring to the Wild organization.
The Wild may be looking for the "Next Patrick Kane" or a Mikko Koivu replacement, but they shouldn't be hesitant to grab a guy who could be the next Vladimir Tarasenko or, as TSN's Craig Button suggests, Max Pacioretty.