Another week, another league jumping into the 2016-17 campaign. This time it’s the AHL and as per usual, there is a ton of young talent to watch for in the world’s second-best league. Once again the Toronto Marlies are flying high, with Kasperi Kapanen earning the league’s first player of the week honors, while Utica will be fun to watch thanks to Troy Stecher, Jordan Subban and even coach Travis Green, the most eligible candidate when an NHL bench boss gets the axe. Now let’s get to the players making noise in the prospect world right now.
Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (Detroit): While Svechnikov had two years in the Quebec League with Cape Breton before turning pro, there is a big lifestyle change when a player jumps from junior to the AHL. But the powerful Russian winger did get in two playoff games with Grand Rapids last season and it gave him a nice sneak peek.
“It helped a lot,” Svechnikov said. “You learn how the guys live their life there, how they play, how they behave.”
Now a full-time member of the Griffins, the rookie has contributed right away, scoring his first AHL goal and putting up eight shots through two games. Thanks to his frame and his hands, Svechnikov has Detroit dreaming of their next great net-front presence. And while he still needs to get quicker, there’s a lot of talent to work with there. And as the right winger grows as a player himself, Svechnikov will also lend an ear to his younger brother: Andrei Svechnikov is a rookie with USHL Muskegon, less than an hour across 1-96 from Grand Rapids.
“It’s exciting, absolutely,” Evgeny said. “Another dream; my brother coming over to play and being closer to me. My mother is coming too, so we’ll see each other a lot. It’s a great time.”
While Andrei is already seen as a potential No. 1 pick in 2018, Evgeny didn’t want to feed the hype machine, preferring that his brother just play his game and let the draft chips fall where they may. But perhaps Andrei will get a shot at the world juniors in a year or two. It certainly helped Evgeny, who took home silver with Russia last year in Finland.
“It’s a great experience playing in the final,” he said. “They had great players on that Finland team. I picked up some – I’m not sure how you say – tough (character-building?) moments, when we scored with seven seconds to go. Those moments, you remember for the rest of your life. It was a great time there.”
And it’s only the beginning for Svechnikov. The Red Wings need stars for the future and he’s got the power forward credentials to be up there one day. For now, he’ll put in the work with the Griffins until his NHL chance comes.
In the Pipeline
Joey Daccord, G (Ottawa): Give it up for Daccord and Arizona State, as the Sun Devils got their first win over a ranked opponent since going Division 1. Daccord backstopped the Devils to victory over Air Force on the weekend, getting Arizona State’s first win of the season in the process.
Anders Bjork, LW (Boston): Bjork has been a demon for Notre Dame so far, topping the conference in offense with 10 points through four games. With quick hands and good instincts, the Bruins pick was also solid for Team USA at the world juniors last year.
Oskar Lindblom, LW (Philadelphia): Two-way threat is once again off to a great start back home in Sweden, posting up eight points in eight games. That’s good for top-15 among all SHLers and Lindblom is doing it from Brynas’ third line.
Tyler Benson, C (Edmonton): Benson slid to the second round of the draft this summer after a raft of injuries limited his impact. Plus, some scouts didn’t like his skating. But the kid has puck smarts and he can clearly put up offense in a hurry, as he did by scoring a hat trick for the Vancouver Giants on the weekend. With eight points in four games, Benson earned WHL player of the week honors.
The OHL’s Kitchener Rangers are off to a great start and since coming back from NHL camps, Toronto pick Jeremy Bracco and Florida prospect Adam Mascherin have done some major damage. The two forwards have combined for 35 points in 14 total games, using their hockey IQ and slick puck moves to baffle the enemy.
2017 Draft Stars
Martin Necas, C – Kometo Brno (Cze.): Scouts are already amped about Necas, who helped the Czech Republic win gold at the summer Ivan Hlinka tourney. An incredible skater with high-end skill and the ability to make a lot of plays, Necas has eight points in 13 games for Kometo, playing against men in the nation’s top league.
Mikey Anderson, D – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): A two-way defenseman who is dangerous in all situations, Anderson has six points through his first seven games this season, making him one of the top-scoring blueliners in the league. A Minnesota-Duluth commit, he will join older brother Joey Anderson (New Jersey) at the school.
Nikita Popugaev, LW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): The big winger has been awesome for the Warriors, using an array of quick shots and releases to put up offense. Turnovers can be an issue, but when you’re scoring hat tricks, that can be excused a bit.
Nico Hischier, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): The highly-skilled Swiss national has settled in nicely with The Herd, posting up 11 points in 11 games. That makes him one of the top rookies in the ‘Q’ and Hischier has proven to be deadly in all situations, including shorthanded.
2018 Draft Star
Ryan Merkley, D – Guelph Storm (OHL): Guelph is still in the OHL basement, but at least there’s hope now with No. 1 overall pick Merkley in the lineup. The crafty offensive defenseman has kicked off his junior career in style with eight points in 10 games.