Detroit — Evgeny Svechnikov missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the final days of preseason.
Almost exactly a year later, Svechnikov was arguably the best Red Wings forward in Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto in a preseason game.
Svechnikov scored a goal, set up Givani Smith for the game-tying goal, and played an agitating and physical brand of hockey in 17 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time.
Considering where he’s been the last year, both mentally and physically, Svechnikov had reason to feel good about himself.
“Honestly, I’m pretty proud of myself, the work I put in over the year. It was hard, it was real tough and I did it every single day,” Svechnikov said. “I didn’t think it was going to be going that way, but it’s gone pretty well.”
The Wings’ 2015 first-round draft pick has struggled to earn a spot on the NHL roster, and last season certainly hurt, costing him a year of pro hockey.
Svechnikov was assigned to Grand Rapids on Saturday, but the way this camp has gone has made both Svechnikov and the Wings optimistic about the future.
“He’s played better as he’s gotten a little more comfortable with it (the knee),” Blashill said. “We weren’t good at all (Friday) but he was one of our best forwards.
“Anytime you have a major surgery like that, there’s always some pain that continues and some of that subsides and some of it you get used to. He cares a lot and wants to be a good player. When you suffer a big injury like he did, he has to remember it’s going to be a marathon.”
The knee, said Svechnikov, wasn’t as big a factor as the preseason progressed. In five preseason games, Svechnikov had two goals and two assists.
“It’s getting to the point where I feel like I’m playing the hockey that I used to play,” Svechnikov said. “I have to get used to the reps and games.”