WINNIPEG – Evgeny Svechnikov started this training camp as an international mystery man, with an air of intrigue around him.
Why was a guy picked 19th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft available on the junk heap as an unrestricted free agent at the age of 24?
Was the Russian winger completely healthy after battling a series of injuries that seemed to prevent him from maintaining much momentum during his time in the Detroit Red Wings organization, where he bounced back and forth between the big club and the minors?
What kinds of things could Svechnikov bring to the table in this pro trial offer that he won after signing an American Hockey League contract with Manitoba Moose in late August?
Was Svechnikov signed as a seasoned option who could anchor a higher line at the AHL level, a high-level finalist to perhaps play alongside someone like Cole Perfetti from the 2020 first round?
Or could the prolific top scorer for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Youth Hockey Major League be able to rekindle the magic he once had with Pierre-Luc Dubois?
Well, after Svechnikov found himself in the lineup for the fourth consecutive exhibition game Sunday night in a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, some of the answers to the aforementioned questions are beginning to come into focus.
While the full story on why things didn’t work out in Motor City might take a bit longer to unravel, Svechnikov is slowly but surely moving towards a two-way NHL contract, and quite possibly a spot in the opening. . lineup of the day in oct. 13 when the Jets open a three-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks.
No, his place is not yet assured, but after the Jets are expected to announce a series of cuts and narrow down to more manageable numbers before the final two exhibition games, Svechnikov remains in the mix.
It’s unclear where exactly he fits in, but Svechnikov has clearly caught the eye of Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
“I moved it and I moved it up. I liked their camp,” Maurice said. “He doesn’t mind going online. He has some hands on him and he makes good plays and I think he understands the game. How he fits in with other people will be very important to him in the future, but he has had a good camp. He has done what he could do. “
Maurice is unwilling to give up a spot to a bubble player with more than a week to go before the season begins, but up to this point, it’s hard to imagine that Svechnikov wouldn’t be right in the thick of things to win one of the battles for the four places available up front.
And if you continue your progression, it’s easy to imagine Svechnikov working his way into a bigger role with the benefit of some extra time to get comfortable.
He has been able to show some offensive gifts, both in terms of shooting and passing ability. Your level of competence is high and you have been able to process the new system that you are becoming familiar with.
In addition, he has shown his ability to play on the right wing (as a left-handed pitcher), which is where the most opportunities are available.
At the end of Sunday’s game, Svechnikov also showed that he was not afraid to mix things up, engaging with Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
“I just want to win and I hate losing,” Svechnikov told reporters in Vancouver. “I just want to put the disk on the net, whatever it is, that’s my area. You are not removing the disc. It doesn’t matter if it’s my network, your network, I will fight for it. I do not mind.”
Svechnikov is a skilled player of a certain size.
One of his greatest assets is a wicked shot and quick release.
While that hasn’t fully blossomed at the NHL level, Svechnikov clearly has the potential to provide a secondary score on a team with extensive offensive talent scattered throughout the forward group.
For a team looking for a secondary score after the departure of Mason Appleton in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft and Mathieu Perreault in free agency, Svechnikov could end up being the equivalent of the money found.
It tends to be a low risk gamble that has the potential to pay off a significant reward, no matter where it ends up.
Having that ability to bounce up and down the lineup is a huge benefit, especially at a time when players are adjusting to play a full 82-game season for the first time since 2019-20.
Svechnikov is not currently auditioning for a job on the Jets’ second row, but he did get a chance to skate with Dubois and Andrew Copp on Sunday.
Knowing that they have enjoyed a lot of success together at the junior level is surely something Maurice will file for safekeeping, realizing that they are a duo that he can lean on if the opportunity arises.
Which brings us back to the present, where Svechnikov will enter a new week locked in a battle with several other forwards with similar goals in mind.
When an organization that invested a first-round pick and four others per season of development sent you packing, the urgency of the situation did not go unnoticed by the player.
“I try not to think about that, to be honest. Get ready for any line, be it (Dubois) or (David Gustafsson) or whatever, I try to go out there and do my thing, ”Svechnikov said. “It is the day to day. I just show up and work. I feel confident every day, I take small steps every day. “
Sometimes it’s those little steps that lead to bigger opportunities.