Category: In the Wings

Reports on how prospects in the Detroit Red Wings organization are doing

In the Wings: Evgeny Svechnikov’s Griffins Season Heating Up

Photo by Diane Woodring

Evgeny Svechnikov (or Evgeni or Yevgeni), is finally hitting his stride in his first professional season of hockey. The 6’3″ 205lb native of Russia has 13 goals and 10 assists in 42 games played so far this season, which puts him 2nd in rookie scoring behind Kyle Criscuolo and ahead of Joe Hicketts (I’ve talked about both of them here already this season, check it out if you want to know more about their rookie years so far).

Svechnikov, the 2015 1st round 19th overall pick by Detroit, has 2 OHL seasons with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles under his belt. In his first season, 2014-15, he was 3rd on the team for points and 2nd league wide for rookie points with 78 (32 goals, 46 assists). He was once again 3rd on the team for points and tied for 18th in the league in 2015-2016 with 79 (32 goals, 47 assists). That’s a 1 point improvement in 2 seasons, though in 5 less games. Additionally, he played 13 games in the playoffs that year and put up another 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists).

The Wings have to hope that they have another solid 1st round pick in Svechnikov as they did with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha before him. Both of those players have become huge members of the Wings’ Top 6, and adding Svechnikov will only make them more dangerous. He is described as a strong skater with a very powerful, accurate shot and as someone who excels at finding the open areas in the offensive zone in order to get said shot off.

Much like Anthony Mantha, he didn’t explode immediately in the AHL, but now that he is settling in Svechnikov is really heating up. He is currently riding a 4 game point streak and has passed Criscuolo, who he plays on a line with, for the rookie goal lead and is only 1 point behind for the overall rookie scoring lead. If he keeps up his current pace Svechnikov should lead all Griffins rookies in points by the end of the season, and possibly leading the Griffins in goals.

Cape Breton Highlights

Credit to TheHockeyViz, I don’t love the choice of music but it’s hard to find QMJHL highlights so props for that. I’m not going to break down this whole video, but you can see Svech loves to shoot the puck with a quick release, and he has quite a bit of accuracy when he does so. I love the goal where he shoots it so quick he spins, and doesn’t even realize he has scored. With offensive instincts like his I’m not surprised he was considered a 1st round pick.

Grand Rapids

1-27 vs San Jose Barracuda

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This is a trickler of a goal but I like the play in the corner and how much lift Svechnikov gets on the tight angle shot. I think back to the Mantha goal earlier in the season when he had the control to put it perfectly in the corner above the goalie’s shoulder. These get called “garbage” goals a lot but never underestimate a player with the foresight to put the puck in the only space he has. It doesn’t trickle through if its off the goalie’s pads.

1-21 vs Cleveland Monsters

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On the doorstep, backhand forehand five hole. Nice goal. You don’t need me to tell you that.

1-20 vs Chicago Wolves

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This is deflected by Ford, but I love the stick work to get the puck away after the Wolves’ player misplays it and then to get the shot through both defensemen so that it can be deflected at all. He gets the puck, passes it, then shoots it to the perfect place for the deflection in the span of 3 seconds.

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This goal maybe me laugh. Nice toe drag to get into position for the shot but come on. I can’t analyze the goalie accidentally punching it into their own net. Let’s have a chuckle and move on.

1-13 vs Milwaukee Admirals

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Svech is the one in the top corner if you can’t tell from the angle. Helps with the cycle and then gets into position for the rebound. You can see he’s already getting into position for the potential rebound and he once again makes an accurate shot with very little time to take it.

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*To do: copy paste some blurb from Ovechkin one timer highlight here*

1-6 vs Charlotte Checkers

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Another one timer goal. Maybe this is place were I bring up that the Wings are going to need a set up player or many of these type goals don’t happen. It’s been a big problem this season setting up goals on the PowerPlay and the Griffins have a much better PP%, so maybe Svechnikov is the type of player who can help since he actually shoots the puck.

12-21 vs Milwaukee Admirals 

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I love breakaways. You know what I love more than breakaways? Players who can actually score on the breakaways. Maybe it’s the fact that Darren Helm has been my favorite player for the past 5 years or so but I love watching a player getting out behind the defense and then burying it. Little fake back and forth, five hole. Beautiful.

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Oh my, why hadn’t they played this game before I wrote the Hicketts piece? He was dominant. There was a great hip check and fight before this goal too. But this piece is about Svechnikov, and after Hicketts does an AMAZING keep in at the blue line, Svech with another great give and go before he roofs it for his second of the game.

10-7 vs Toronto Maple Leafs (Preseason)

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Preseason goal capper. Another quick release shot, glove side top shelf. If I have learned one thing from going through these highlights, it’s that I don’t want Evgeny Svechnikov shooting at me from anywhere. He has the ability to put it in with very little time. I believe that’s Jhonas Enroth too, so he’s scoring on someone with NHL experience.

Next Steps

Svechnikov is still adjusting to his first season in the AHL but he is really starting to click. He brings a killer shot from several areas of the ice and an accuracy to match, a long with being able to get to the right areas of the ice to take said shot. I would not be surprised to see him as one of the top 3 goal scorers on the Griffins this year, and a key part of a playoff push for them. I definitely am excited to see him on the Red Wings in the future, especially with the powerplay in the dire straits it is now. That said, I am hesitant to rush him along when I don’t think he will magically fix the Red Wings. I expect him to be in Grand Rapids next season barring either an amazing training camp + preseason or injury. But rest assured Wings fans, that this is another prospect who is living up to the hype.


Elite Prospects Profile on Svechnikov

AHL Stats

Griff Vision


In the Wings: Former Harvard Captain Kyle Criscuolo Helping Lead Griffins Offense

Photo by Gil Talbot

Personally, I did not know much about Kyle Criscuolo until I saw this goal pop up all over reddit and Twitter.

Just look at that beautiful one timer. Cameraman doesn’t even react fast enough to follow the puck in. Speaking of the puck, it looks like it was still in midair!

So needless to say, I’ve definitely been paying more attention to Kyle Criscuolo since then to see who he is and what he’s about.

At 5’8″ and 170 pounds, the 24 year old center isn’t the biggest or strongest guy on the ice, but he hasn’t let that stop him from being successful where he’s been. He had a solid NCAA career at Harvard University, where he put up 113 points (53 goals and 60 assists) over 124 games, most of the alongside Jimmy Vesey. For the last two seasons, he served as captain. He was a 2015-16 Hobey Baker finalist, and at the end of that season the Griffins signed him to an amateur tryout as he was undrafted. He appeared in 4 games before getting a 1 year minor league contract to play with the Griffins full time in the 2016-17 season.

Note: Criscuolo is not able to get called up at the moment because he is only on a minor league contract. The potential is there for the Red Wings to sign him to an entry level contract at the end of the season. 

This season has been good for Criscuolo and the Griffins. They currently lead the Central Division with 39pts (18-7-1) and are 3rd overall in the AHL. Criscuolo has been a large part of it, leading all rookies on the team with 20 points (9 goals and 11 assists) and is only behind Matt Lorito for total points this season (Matt has 30, the next rookies on the team are Evgeny Svechnikov and Joe Hicketts, with 13 and 10 points respectively).

We’ve already seen one, but let’s look at some more plays and see what he’s been doing.

10-18 Game Against Iowa Wild 

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Pretty good play here by Criscuolo, he makes a smart pass by the defender and then crashes the net to bang home the rebound on the doorstep.

11-25 Against Cleveland Monsters

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I like this assist almost more than I like the goal, because it shows one of the things that people bring up about Criscuolo and that’s his hockey IQ. Now, if you’re like me, you shoot the puck whenever you’re within sight of the net, but we see Criscuolo here is smart and and passes it off to this season’s whipping boy Brian Lashoff who puts it home.

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Here we are later in the game and Criscuolo puts in another rebound goal after another smart pass to get by the goalie. It’s a decent shot but honestly this is a goal that I would expect every player to score with a wide open net like that.

12-7 Against Chicago Wolves

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Oh that poor goalie. We’ve seen Mrazek make a similar mistake this year. This goal doesn’t show off a wicked shot or anything but it brings us back to IQ. He sticks with the play and is there to capitalize on the mistake.

Looking Forward

The future is hazy for Criscuolo. I like what I’ve seen from him in Grand Rapids, but I showed you that one goal to make a point about what he’s scored so far. The goals seem to be, apart from that one ridiculous one timer, very similar in nature: close in rebounds and so called “greasy” goals on the doorstep. That said, he looks to be a strong skater and has a good sense of where to be, you don’t put up over 3/4ths a point per game without a bit of skill and scoring touch. He’s got a good knack for being in the right place at the right time and that’s nothing to scoff at.

On the other hand, he’s already 24 and size wise is not the type of player that usually breaks into the NHL without a significant scoring presence. I can definitely see potential for him in the bottom 6 for the Red Wings, if they ever need someone new there, but for the time being he’s going to need to keep producing at this rate to get a sniff at an ELC. The window is only going to be open for a couple more seasons at most, and if he doesn’t break in by then, I think we’ll see him as a career AHLer.




The AHL stats

In the Wings: Givani Smith Stormin’ in Third Season with Guelph

Photo Terry Wilson OHL Images

At 6’2″ 205lbs, 18 year old Toronto native Givani Smith is a powerful winger currently playing in his third season for the Guelph Storm of the OHL. His first season, he put up 19 points in 61 games played (split between the Barrie Colts and the Guelph Storm). Last year, he put up 42 in 65. That was enough for the Detroit Red Wings, who drafted him 46th overall in the 2nd round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. You voted, so for our second edition of In the Wings we’re checking in on how Smith is doing in his first season post draft.

I, like many, were excited to see the Red Wings draft Smith in the 2nd round. It has been awhile since the Wings have had a big bodied winger who plays a strong physical brand of hockey while also having a nose for putting pucks to the net. I think our top 6 has missed someone who can jump into the play physically while also contributing to the offense (players like Glendening and Ott, these guys play a physical grinding style of hockey but don’t ever seem to have a scoring touch). Givani Smith is starting to look like he will slot in quite nicely with the Red Wings in that capacity.

In 30 games this season, he has 17 goals, 11 assists, 77 penalty minutes, and is +7. He is 3 points behind leading team scorer Issac Ratcliffe, and tied for the team lead in goals. All told, he is an integral part of this seasons offense in Guelph, playing on the first line. Like I did with Joe Hicketts, I’m going to try and breakdown what highlights I can find for Smith to show you guys what type of player he is.


The draft combine from Rogers Tv shows some nice offense from Smith to start with

You can see several of these goals are the in close type of greasy goals, goals where the goalie has multiple players in his face and you just need someone to muscle in and bang it home. He has a nice long range shot in there where he puts it top corner, and another one where he powers through everyone to tuck it five hole. I like the versatility we see in this combine. I’ve learned my lesson from Teemu Pulkkinen that a one dimensional player does not have the skill set needed to succeed in the NHL.

Here’s an individual highlight I’ve dug up:

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C’mon Missisauga. There is literally two of you plus the goalie alone versus Smith. He skates down the ice, beats the defender, and gets a great scoring chance what looks like short side. When the goalie beats it, Smith is already turning to scoop up his own rebound and punch it home. Goalie had no chance, and we can also see Smith’s strong skating ability as well.

I apologize for the inability to embed this one, I don’t think Sportsnet wants me too. In the 2016 BioSteel Cup Smith had a hattrick for Team Simmonds. In the first goal, he gets a nice saucer pass to himself and then goes ahead and just lifts the backhander over the pad short side. We’re seeing a pattern with these in tight finishes, and it’s something I don’t think I’ve seen enough with in the Wings this season (actually, goals in general). The second goal is a 2-on-1, but the nice thing about it is that Smith gets it back incredibly close and has the smarts to lift it up straight up into the net. Too often do you see guys with a wide open net but they just run out of room and bang it off the post or the side of the net. Last goal is just a clean breakaway shot that the goalie doesn’t react in time.

Skip to around :20 for Smith’s OT Winner. Here we again see the same  play we are expecting from Smith. In close rebound, buried behind the goalie. Smith has a lot of assets in his offensive arsenal. He’s a big guy who can wreak havoc in front of the net, and can power through with strong skating ability. He can score from in close or from farther out, and shows intelligence in where to place his shots.



One of the things you expect to get from a player like Smith is fights, and so far in his career he hasn’t disappointed in his willingness to drop the gloves while also showing enough restrain to refrain from being a liability. He already has a fight this season, good for 13 total OHL fights.

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Here’s a fight against Jacob Friend from the Owen Sound Attack, earlier this season. As you can see, Smith is not afraid to get in there and throw those quick bombs. He pretty handily takes care of Friend until the linesmen come in and stop the fight. Friend got the instigator on that fight, but it’s nice that

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This fight was in the preseason game against Boston. Smith delivered a late, but clean hit (he clearly slowed up to prevent boarding) when Joe Morrow took exception. Morrow is forced to turtle and eventually Smith over commits and allows Morrow to bring him down pretty cleanly. But this fight I think speaks to much of what makes Givani Smith who he is. Dropping the gloves in a preseason game is about making a point. He knows he is a physical player, and he’s consciously bringing that to the front of who he is as a player. It’s a gap the Wings have, and a gap he’s trying to fill.

Moving forward

Red Wings fans should temper expectations for Givani Smith for at least another season. He wants be eligible for the AHL until he is 20, and I think that one of the most important steps for a prospect is to make the leap from Junior to Minor to Major successfully. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that scoring in the O does not always translate. I’ve nothing against the guy but Steve Ott had 50 goals in 55 games in the OHL and I don’t think anyone is arguing that he is a top 6 forward. Givani Smith will need more time and seasoning before we know where he’ll place in the Wings, but so far this season he is off to a rocket of a start.


Helene St. James’ article in the Detroit Free Press