Detroit— At their morning skate Wednesday, Evgeny Svechnikov looked forward to his first preseason game for the Red Wings against the Penguins later in the day, and Trevor Daley anticipated his first game against his former team, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
Svechnikov and Daley are evidence of one of the prime characteristics of the 2017-18 Wings: A roster of mostly emerging players in need of NHL experience and older veterans.
Svechnikov, 20, said he eagerly anticipated his third game played for the Red Wings after a brief stint last season, amid 74 games in Grand Rapids with 20 goals and 31 assists.
The great hope for the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Svechnikov is that he eventually joins Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha as bright hopes for a franchise in need of new stars.
“It’s a time when you want to show yourself, and do your best,” Svechnikov said.
“I want to send a message, and I’m excited for it.”
The big forward, who began demonstrating what some scouts say is a fine scoring touch as the AHL season advanced for the Calder Cup-winning Griffins, is asked to keep moving his feet, especially to match the pace of the NHL game, and to think the game more methodically.
If it sounds like the affable Svechnikov is hoping to play the game faster and think it slower, that is true; and welcome to the life of a 20-year-old with two NHL games played, career.
He has been working on both, especially over the last 12 months.
“I think to just get quicker and get my feet moving was my first thing to do,” Svechnikov said of his first professional season. “There are those areas where I need to be quicker, especially in the neutral zone.
“More mentally, I tried to work on it during the season. But I also tried just to relax and not think about it.”
Properly processing the action — especially in a sport played with such pace, in which teams are increasingly emphasizing speed and the acceleration of action that occurs between the AHL and the NHL — can take time.
So can making continual movement on the ice a habit.
Jeff Blashill said he liked Svechnikov’s regular season, last year.
“I thought the 50 points is a real good number for young guy,” said Blashill, beginning his third season as coach and the final year on his contract.
Svechnikov achieved a split decision in his two games with the Wings, the coach said. In the first, he played with pace and moved a great deal.
In the second, not so much.
“I think Svech ultimately, to be a really good player at this level, has to make sure that he plays with pace,” Blashill said.
“He has to make sure he plays with his stick on the ice, so he stays away from hooking penalties. And then, he has to slow the game down a little bit for himself.”
Blashill, who has spent most of his coaching career developing players at the junior, collegiate and minor league levels, acknowledged the sizeable challenge of playing faster and thinking slower at the same time.
“I think what happens over time when you are at a level, it slows down for you,” he said.
It is likely Svechnikov will spend a good chunk, if not most, of the season with the Griffins. He faces much the same challenge of Anthony Mantha before him, as the Wings look for more elite play in the AHL before Svechnikov give the big league a better shot.
“Svech has to be at the point where he can get the game to slow down for him, so he can be an elite player in the American league,” Blashill said.
Daley seemed thoughtful at the prospect of playing the Penguins, recent teammates with whom he twice, consecutively won the Stanley Cup. But he also talked about the fun of getting into the action.
“When you get to do something that we’d done for the past two years, it’s pretty special,” said Daley, who turns 34 on Oct. 9 during the second week of the regular season.
He said he stayed in touch with many of his former mates, who enjoyed their individual time with the cup, this summer.
“So, yeah, it will be fun to go back in and play against them, for sure. I’m sure I’ll take some runs at some of them,” Daley said, with a laugh.
Red Wings at Blackhawks
Faceoff: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, United Center, Chicago.
TV/Radio: NHLN, WGN (Chicago)
Notes: Third preseason game in three nights for Red Wings. Second preseason game for Blackhawks, after facing the Blue Jackets on Tuesday.