Svechnikov ‘more hungry’ after brief stay with Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Evgeny Svechnikov didn’t take it as a disappointment or a letdown when he was sent back to Grand Rapids late this season.

Svechnikov played two games with the Red Wings — scoring the winning goal in the shootout April 3 against Ottawa — and didn’t look out of a place for a 20-year-old in his first full professional season.

But, everyone knew this was only going to be a brief look-see for Svechnikov, and that’s what it was.

Still, rather than sulking, Svechnikov did the exact opposite.

“It made me more hungry,” Svechnikov said. “It gave me more confidence and it helped my game.”

Svechnikov returned to Grand Rapids and finished off a fine regular season — 20 goals and 31 assists in 74 games — and it carried into the playoffs.

Svechnikov was one of the Griffins’ best player in their first-round three-game sweep of Milwaukee, with one goal and three assists in the series.

“He’s a young guy that is constantly looking to get better,” Griffins coach Todd Nelson said. “With his size and skill, that translates well to this time of year. He plays a complete game, and he’s a guy with a bright future.”

A 2015 first-round draft pick, Svechnikov has done nothing to dim the enthusiasm or expectations surrounding his potential.

He’s strong on his skates, is a fine skater, and appears willing to go to the net to make a play or create offense.

As with most young players, defense was an issue early this season, but Svechnikov has progressed nicely.

“He’s really grown as a player throughout the year,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said during Svechnkov’s time in Detroit in April. “He works extremely hard at his game. In training camp he showed some flashes of skill but he needed to learn how to play to be effective.

“Over the course of the season, he took steps in the right direction to learn how to play, how to be efficient and effective, not just the flashes of skill.

“Making plays to create offense and be good defensively.”

At 6–foot-3, 205 pounds Svechnikov already a big, strong frame. But there’s the expectation he’ll get even stronger, which will make Svechnikov that much more of a force with or without the puck.

“He’s a big body,” Blashill said. “He’s real strong on the puck, he has good hands, can pass the puck excellent. He can shoot it, too, so it’s a good package.”

Svechnikov is eager for the Griffins to begin the second round of the American League playoffs, which begins Wednesday night in Chicago.

Svechnikov enjoyed the intensity of the first round, saying the feel of the games were completely different from the regular season.

“The games are so great, so fun to play in, it’s disappointing we have to go through such a long season to get to these games,” Svechnikov said. “It’s been a lot of fun. You hear about it, and it’s true: It’s the best time of the year.”

Winning a Calder Cup in his rookie pro season would be a thrill, said Svechnikov, who feels the Griffins have the roster to do so.

“We just have to play like a hungry team,” Svechnikov said. “We definitely have confidence, but we have to keep working and play hard. We have the players (to win).”

New video coach

Adam Nightingale has been named the new assistant coach/video.

Nightingale, 37, spent last season with the Buffalo Sabres as that team’s video coach..

Nightingale is currently serving as video coordinator on coach Blashill’s staff for Team USA at the 2017 world championships.

Prior to joining the Sabres, Nightingale was head coach of powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minnesota) from 2014-16.

Goaltending depth

The Red Wings signed Czech Republic goaltender Matej Machovsky to a one-year contract.

Machovsky, 23, played the last four seasons in the Czech Republic for HC Plzen.

In 178 games with HC Plzen, Machovsky was 94-84-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, with 14 shutouts.

World championships

Dylan Larkin had two goals for Team USA in Tuesday’s 5-2 exhibition victory over Italy.

Danny DeKeyser added an assist, and goaltender Jimmy Howardstopped 10 of 11 shots while playing half the game.

Team USA opens its tournament play Friday against host Germany (2:15 p.m. ET, NHL Network).

Griffins take Game 1

Martin Frk and Matthew Ford scored first-period goals Wednesday to help lead Grand Rapids to a 4-1 victory over Chicago.

Tomas Nosek and Ben Street (empty net) scored in the third period, as the Griffins took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Goaltender Jared Coreau stopped 27 shots to earn the victory. Tyler Bertuzzi and Nathan Paetsch both had two assists.

Frk, in his first game of the playoffs since returning from an upper body injury, added an assist on Ford’s goal.

Game 2 is Friday in Chicago before the series returns to Grand Rapids on Saturday.