If the Sabres want to go with flash and offense with their 21st overall pick, they can not do better than Cape Breton Screaming Eagles left winger Evgeny Svechnikov. The Russian teenager broke out this season in the QMJHL after turning pro in the KHL at age 16. This season Svechnikov was second in QMJHL rookie scoring, after going in the 2nd round of the CHL Import Draft.
SportsNet's Jeff Marek's take on the winger:
"Big, strong winger who can also play centre in a pinch. Really protects the puck well and has great speed to go with it. A terrifying player to go up against one-on-one. Combination of size and competiveness. Teams went after him all season in Cape Breton and he gave it right back. Really strong on his skates. Comparable: Max Pacioretty".
3 minutes into this video, Svechnikov is very poised with the puck on the powerplay, and perfectly sets his teammate for an easy goal. He is very good at hanging onto the puck. At 8 minutes in he makes a great move to cut into the slot and rip a shot on goal. At about 9 minutes in we see a bad thing if we look closely. Svechnikov does what many Russian and skilled players tend to do, they enter the zone, stop and turn back towards the point.
Svechnikov is 6 foot 2, 201 pounds. Last season with Cape Breton he had 32 goals and 46 assists in 55 games.
NHL Central Scouting
The Sabres could use a player like this going forward. Many of the big talented players in the system are centers. The top winger prospects in the organization include Justin Bailey, J.T. Compher, Nick Baptiste, Hudson Fasching, and William Carrier. All are decent prospects with promise, but none were 1st round picks, nor are they elite prospects. Svechnikov would immediately become the best prospect on the wing in the Sabres organization.
The biggest issue with the Sabres selecting Svechnikov is whether or not he will be available. Many have him ranked before 21st. There is always a bit of a Russian factor that can allow players to drop, like Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko did in 2012. Russians are always risky, which is why even at the 21st pick there are safer options. Especially when he has a history with the KHL.
My grade for Evgeny Svechnikov at the 21st pick: A