'I can do it': Svechnikov relentlessly pursues spot on Red Wings after grinding through rehab

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Evgeny Svechnikov

Plymouth Township – Every one of the last few seasons has been big for Detroit Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov.

But that’s especially true for 2019-20, as Svechnikov, 22, the Red Wings’ 2015 first-round draft pick, is returning from a lost season recovering from right knee ACL reconstruction.

“Every year you would have asked me since I was 19 it’s been a big year,” said Svechnikov this week, after completing a workout at the Power Edge Pro Camp at USA Hockey Arena. “This year is no different. But especially coming back from an injury.”

It’s coming back from that injury, having gone through the long, tedious rehabilitation, that’s pushing and motivating Svechnikov.

Hearing the doubters say that maybe Svechnkov will not be able to come all the way back, maybe will not ever be the same player again – that’s what stirring him.

“I just want to go out there and show my name,” Svechnikov said. “I’m Evgeny Svechnikov, I was drafted for a reason and I’m here for a reason. I want to be part of the future, and I want to do that for myself and the fans and for everybody.

“I’m looking forward to doing it.”

Svechnikov appeared to be headed toward fulfilling his goal of reaching the NHL full-time, showing why he was a first-round draft pick, last training camp.

Svechniko was one of the better Red Wings through camp and had two winning goals during the exhibition season before tearing his knee in a puck battle along the boards against Toronto.

Suddenly, instead of thinking about playing the NHL, Svechnikov was preparing for season-ending surgery.

“Very frustrating,” said Svechnikov of sitting out the season. “You look at all the other players, all the guys (in the league, and in his draft class), and I’m still where I’m at and I’m still competing, and it’s tough, with the injury.

“But it’s all ahead. I just want to go and take my spot (in the lineup) and help these guys and I know I can do it.”

Evgeny Svechnikov

Talking last season about Svechnikov’s frustration going through rehab, coach Jeff Blashill said the experience could actually help Svechnikov in certain ways.

“It’s how you react to it that matters,” Blashill said. “The training he does, sometimes when you face adversity you come through the other side way better. You’re hardened, you have to dig deeper, and you found stuff inside of you have didn’t know you had. Those are huge things in life.

“He’s getting challenged to a great degree. He has to come out the other side better. If he does, it’ll end up in the long-term picture positive as much as in the short term, something that’s hard to go through.”

The rehabilitation has been long, and even though Svechnikov says he’ll be ready to go full-steam at training camp, the knee isn’t feeling 100 percent.

“It feels good, very good, lot better than it used to feel,” Svechnikov said. “(But) there’s no 100 percent. I’ll be feeling it into the season. It’s still a process of healing and I’m feeling it.

“But it’s definitely good enough to go and I’m feeling good. I’m ready.”

After an impressive rookie pro season in which Svechnikov had 20 goals and 31 assists (51 points) in 74 games in Grand Rapids in 2016-17, he slipped to seven goals and 16 assists (23 points) in 57 games in 2017-18.

In 16 games with the Wings, Svechnikov has two goals and two assists.

At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Svechnikov is a big-body winger who could help the Wings in a variety of ways.

But with the injury, and the growing number of young, talented forwards on the Wings roster – including the acquisition earlier this week of Adam Erne, a similar player to Svechnikov – the competition for jobs is getting more intense.

“I know I can be part of the future with all of the younger guys and I want to be with all those guys,” Svechnikov said. “It was unfortunate what I went through, but it’s so much motivation for me and I’m working non-stop.”

The prevailing feeling around the organization appears to be Svechnikov would be best served this season by at least beginning the season in Grand Rapids and working some rust off.

But Svechnikov isn’t having any of it. While he’s pushing himself this summer, including this week in Plymouth against the likes of Dylan Larkin, Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets/Michigan), Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills/Chicago Blackhawks) and Frans Nielsen, among other NHLers, Svechnikov is aiming at being on the Wings’ opening night roster.

“That’s my goal, that’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now,” Svechnikov said. “I want to be right away on the team and I know I can be a Red Wing.

“And I will be. There’s no other way I’m looking at it.”


Twitter: @tkulfan