The final day of the 2016 World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta., was for all the marbles and Team USA defeated Canada East 4-0 to win gold and claim its seventh tournament.
But it was what happened the day before that has a better chance for resonating for years to come.
Center Andrei Svechnikov helped Russia win a bronze medal by recording a hat trick in a 7-4 decision over the Czech Republic. He scored his goals off the rush with tremendous speed and agility and by using his brute force to near the net.
The performance was the cherry on top of an MVP showing for Svechnikov. In four games, he scored eight times – a tournament record. He paced the event with 12 points, too.
Not bad for someone who’s just 16 years old.
Already listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, the Barnaul, Russia native promises to be a top prospect for the 2018 draft. Svechnikov plays for the United States League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks and sits in a tie for fifth in scoring with 24 points. He’s racked up his total in just 17 games whereas all his nearest rivals have played at least 21.
Svechnikov’s outbursts in the USHL and in Bonnyville look like the start of a promising feature. The Hockey News rated him as the 42nd most promising 21-and-under player in the recent Prospects Unlimited issue. The criterion was to project how Svechnikov would look as a 23-year-old forward. He was pegged as “Russia’s next big thing.”
It looked that way over a week period in Alberta in December 2017.
The United States earned gold Saturday backed by the goaltending of Cayden Primeau, who finished the tournament with a 0.90 goals-against average and .966 save percentage. Czech center Kristian Reichel, son of former NHLer Robert Reichel, was also a tournament all-star.
But there’s little doubt Svechnikov was the star of the show.