2018 NHL Draft: Andrei Svechnikov inserts name into top pick conversation

POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 23, 2017: Russia's Andrei Svechnikov poses after a ceremony to award the 2017 IIHF World U18 Championship bronze medals as they win their ice hockey match against Sweden 3-0 at the Poprad Ice Stadium. Yelena Rusko/TASS (Photo by Yelena RuskoTASS via Getty Images)
POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 23, 2017: Russia's Andrei Svechnikov poses after a ceremony to award the 2017 IIHF World U18 Championship bronze medals as they win their ice hockey match against Sweden 3-0 at the Poprad Ice Stadium. Yelena Rusko/TASS (Photo by Yelena RuskoTASS via Getty Images) /
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Andrei Svechnikov’s impressive start to his 2017-18 season could mean his name might be called first at the 2018 NHL Draft. 

The 2018 NHL Draft isn’t too far away. Entering the 2017-18 season, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the consensus favorite to be the top pick in June. And rightfully so, he’s an electric blue line talent who has everything you want to see in a franchise defenseman. However, forward Andrei Svechnikov seems ready to force teams to make a tough decision.

From Russia, he entered this season ranked second, according to ISS Hockey, Hockeyprospect.com, and Future Considerations. Svechnikov is in just his second North American season after playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL in 2016-17. He is spending the 2017-18 season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL.

Svechknikov, much like his brother Evgeni, is known for being a very skilled forward. He’s a dynamic wing with an incredible upside on offense. Because of his limited North American experience, Svechnikov’s number two ranking had everything to do with his potential. 58 points in 48 games in the USHL is great, but not outstanding. So far this season, Svechknikov is getting some excellent results.

Through his first eight games (as of Oct. 11), he has eight goals and two assists. Svechnikov also has 38 shots on goal, averaging nearly five shots per game. He started slow, notching just six shots on goal in his first three games. But since then, Svechnikov has posted at least five shots on goal in each game.

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In a league where scoring is important, he might be dynamic enough to make the team with the first overall pick think twice. Dahlin is off to a good start so far, with two points in six games overseas (keep in mind he’s a 17-year-old playing against mostly grown men).

What makes Svechnikov unique is his shot generation. It’s obviously a small sample size, but so far, he’s averaging 4.75 shots per game. Svechnikov’s 38 shots on goal are a league high. Owen Tippett, the top forward selected from the OHL last season, had 284 shots on goal in 60 games, good for 4.73 shots per game. One has to assume it would take at least a five shots per game average (or a Dahlin injury) for the Russian forward to be taken seriously as a top pick candidate.

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It would take a lot for Svechnikov to overtake Dahlin in the draft rankings. The top pick is the Swedish defenseman’s honor to lose at this point. But if Svechnikov keeps putting up impressive totals, he could make the decision extremely difficult. And potentially make the team with the second overall pick extremely happy.