The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will take place on July 23. Following the results of the draft lottery, the Calgary Flames hold the 12th overall selection and will have a chance to add a high-end prospect to their organization.
As conversation and speculation multiplies in advance of the draft, Fyodor Svechkov has recurrently surfaced as one of the names most often roped to the Flames. Today, we’ll be examining what the stocky and cerebral Russian forward could offer the organization if those rumours prove true.
Hailing from Togliatti—a city whose stroganoff stands fed and system produced former NHL mainstays like Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Yelemin, and the endlessly lovable Ilya Bryzgalov—Svechkov has played for his hometown team at the youth, junior, and professional levels. He split his minutes this past season between battling his fellow boys for the Lada Togliatti MHL team and grappling with grown men for the same club in the VHL.
Svechkov capped this past season by representing Russia at the U18 World Championships, where he served as the silver-medal squad’s first-line centre. The 6’0’’ 180-pound defensive guru also thrives on the wing, but his awareness, elusiveness, and deception shine brightest while he mans the middle.
Touted as one of the top defensive forwards of the draft class, Svechkov exhibits 200-foot vision that far exceeds his age. In the neutral zone, he terrorizes puck-carriers with stick lifts and jabs that make him a takeaway specialist who can jet the other way the moment he seizes the puck.
Russia's Fyodor Svechkov has the first goal of the day, with Ivan Miroschnichenko picking up the assist.
— Josh Bell (@JoshuaBell31) April 27, 2021
In the defensive zone, he swivels his head like a lighthouse beacon to fish loose pucks from scrums and disrupt cycles by occupying key slabs of ice as they empty.
Fyodor Svechkov is really stinkin good at escaping pressure pic.twitter.com/PyZCALngKe
— 🇨🇿 Dylan Griffing (@GriffingDylan) March 25, 2021
And in the offensive zone, he foils breakouts by hovering at the top of the circle and herding players and passes away from open lanes.
🇷🇺 Fyodor Svechkov (#2021NHLDraft) blocks the initial pass and then Ivan Miroshnichenko goes to work. Walks in, recovers from a stumble, and takes it around the goalie. Three goal lead regained.https://t.co/E3MnSHY6Yh pic.twitter.com/5UqHuKTh61
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) May 6, 2021
Svechkov controls the game by translating his alertness and awareness into smart, effective plays both with and without the puck. His composed stride helps him accomplish these feats—steady and sturdy on his skates, Svechkov tends to use his broad frame to protect the puck with his body as he drifts and dips through all three zones. Spotting him grip his stick with his right hand while shielding the puck from back-checkers with his left arms is not at all a rare occurrence.
I see you, Fyodor Svechkov pic.twitter.com/YvMJ5omGEB
— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) October 18, 2020
His vision and patience and possession all combine to make him a genuine offensive threat, too, though some scouts worry that his stats will stall and stagnate at higher levels. While his defensive prowess outshines his production abilities in most of the dialogue surrounding him, Svechkov demonstrates ample play-making talent as he rushes up the boards by unloading crisp centering passes, cunning drop passes and crafty backdoor passes at fruitful rates.
Russia comes all the way back!!!
— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) April 27, 2021
What makes his passing most impressive, however, is his deception. Svechkov always waits for the defender to bite. After scoping an open man, he hesitates and feints with the puck in his possession for as long as it takes to exploit an excitable set of dentures.
A couple of nice plays by Fyodor Svechkov to setup Danila Yurov.
These two have been lights out for the Russians early in this event. pic.twitter.com/maGBVVhooV
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) April 29, 2021
He times every pass—and shot—perfectly, yet he also masks his choice behind some manipulation magic. Slap passes, sudden snapshots, no-look dishes. Svechkov consistently manages to wait for the right opportunity to make his play without telegraphing the play he eventually does. That is clever. That is counterintuitive. That alone betrays a mature and promising hockey mind.
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst echoes this assessment of Svechkov’s hockey IQ:
Svechkov is a gifted hockey player who thinks the game on a different level than most neophytes… Anticipating, reading and reacting, isolating or trapping opponents with stick work, supporting pucks, and neutralizing zone schemes are all things he does to impact the game.
As does Josh Tessler from Smaht Scouting:
His ability to draw attackers in with smart puck movement paves the way for his teammates to find open ice. Svechkov is a strategic forward… The name of the game is manipulation, and Svechkov wins every time.
Svechkov scored at clips this past season that ranged from effective to effervescent, depending on the age and calibre of his opponents. In fifteen games for the unspectacular Lada Togliatti MHL club, Svechkov posted 4 goals and 11 points. That point-per-game pace actually led the junior squad, and it is also crucial to note that every single assist he nabbed was a primary point. In other words, he produced without piggybacking. While his output relented once he was promoted to the professional Lada Togliatti roster, the fact that he notched 15 points in 38 games as a 17-year-old pitted against men is still no trivial achievement.
Deigning to play against teenagers once more at the U18 World Championships, Svechkov flourished with 4 goals and 10 points in 7 games. He finished ninth in tournament scoring, cementing himself as a premier talent among his immediate peer group.
Availability and fit
Once an aging Mikael Backlund inevitably relinquishes his role as the franchise’s shutdown centre, the Flames will need an heir to fill his vacant throne. Who better to apprentice below Backlund in the last couple years of his contract than one of the best regarded defensive forwards in this draft class? Svechkov also offers versatility as a dual winger and centreman, which would be invaluable on a team that has shifted and shuffled natural positions in their roster with disappointing results (“Sure, sure, Sam Bennett will blossom on the wing, sure”) in recent years.
As for availability, pundits gazing into their fogged crystal balls are divided. Some predict him getting plucked in the top ten, others project him near the bottom of the first round. (The latter camp largely questions whether he has the offensive upside and quick feet to succeed in an NHL setting.) Below lie his respective rung on rankings scrawled by some major draft evaluators:
McKeen’s Hockey – 30th
Future Considerations – 18th
Sportsnet (Sam Consentino) – 13th
The Athletic (Corey Pronman) – 24th
Dobber Prospects – 17th
TSN (Bob McKenzie) – 30th
NHL Central Scouting (European Skaters) – 6th
Recruit Scouting – 37th
EliteProspects.com – 13th
Smaht Scouting – 9th
Now, that is a fat gulf sprawled between his highest and lowest valuations. Excluding the continentally discriminate Central Scouting rank, and scratching the scores at both extremes like competitive diving judges to avoid skewed data, and the average ranking is 21st overall. So, ultimately, it is supremely likely that Svechkov will be available for the Flames to snatch at twelfth if they want to gamble on a guy who is, to some, an offensive question mark—but also unanimously a defensive exclamation point.