Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov discusses his return to Detroit. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Detroit — These are better days for Evgeny Svechnikov.
For the first few months of this season in Grand Rapids, Svechnikov was a disappointing former 2015 first-round draft pick who wasn’t scoring goals and producing offense like the Red Wings expected — to the tune of five points (two goals, three assists) in 26 games.
But Svechnikov has been a different player the second half of the season, to the point where the Red Wings called him up when Frans Nielsen was injured Tuesday in Boston.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Svechnikov said of his first-half slump. “It was kind of a struggle with myself. I tried to find a way to get through.
“It’s all right to go through it. I’m not going to be the last guy (to go through a slump). There’s a lot of emotion for myself and a lot of energy. I’m very excited about the opportunity.”
Since Dec. 30, Svechikonv has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 17 games and looked more like the exciting prospect Red Wings management felt he’d be.
Svechnikov will stay beyond however long it takes for Nielsen (concussion protocol) to recover, and could stay through these final weeks of the regular season.
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill talks about the return of young forward Evgeny Svechnikov. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“Sometimes confidence is a big factor in people’s success,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Last year he had a real good year on a real good team (in Grand Rapids, helping the Griffins to a Calder Cup championship), scoring 50 points as a rookie, and for a young guy that’s a heck of a year.
“For whatever reason, he was slow out of the gate this year. I know Ken (general manager Ken Holland) was over there two weeks ago and thought he was excellent.
“Sometimes when you struggle, you lose some opportunities and lose some confidence. I assume as he’s gone along (this season) he’s built that back up and it’ll be a good opportunity for him.”
Svechnikov was scheduled to be on a line with Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader, as he plays his first NHL game this season.
“I want to prove everything I can,” Svechnikov said.
Svechnikov played in two games last season with the Red Wings, getting a late-season call-up. And, though he didn’t get on the scoresheet, he did score a game-winning goal in a shootout.
That taste of the NHL should lessen any nerves this time around.
Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov discusses his first-half struggles this season while with Grand Rapids. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
“I just want to play my game, just want to do what I did in Grand Rapids,” Svechnikov said. “I want to play the same way I did, be responsible defensively, be real good down low, strong on the puck and hang on to the puck.
“It was helpful to have the chance last year. I know guys on the team, the trainers. It means a lot.”
The Red Wings have long envisioned Svechnikov (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) as a potential elite power forward.
His first-half struggles aside, what Svechnikov showed last season in his first season of pro hockey and what he’s produced the second half of this season provides hope.
“He has an extremely great work ethic,” said Blashill, who wants to see Svechnikov balance that work ethic. “He wants to be great and he’s extremely hard on himself. The balance, the self-accountability, is a great thing but you have to balance it with being too hard on himself.
“He has to learn to make sure he’s accountable and look in the mirror, and also let it go and go play.”
Blashill has seen Svechnikov mature and learn what it takes to be effective at the pro level.
“We hope he develops into a real strong power forward that can add offensive punch,” Blashill said. “He’s a bigger, thick body. He’s not 6-foot-6, but he’s a big player who is hard on the puck, strong on the puck, and who has a good skill set.
“When he first came into the league, he was interested in making the pretty plays. He’s learned over time to use that skill in a more efficient manner. It’s not how pretty the play, it’s how effective the play is.”