By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – For the first time since 2001, the Carolina Hurricanes selected a Russian with their first pick in the National Hockey League (NHL) Draft.
Standing on the stage at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas on Friday, Drew Dundon, daughter of majority owner Tom Dundon, announced Andrei Svechnikov as the team’s first pick and second overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The 18-year-old Svechnikov was ranked first overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting following a season during which he posted 72 points (40g, 32a) in 44 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
“It feels great. I’m super happy. It was my dream, and it came true,” Svechnikov said.
“It’s the best moment of my life.”
No stranger to receiving accolades at a young age, the six-foot-three-inch, 184-pound forward won the 2017-18 CHL Top Prospect Award and was named OHL Rookie of the Year.
After being taken first overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft, Svechnikov won OHL Rookie of the Month four of the six times the award was handed out during the 2017-18 season.
Before his time in Barrie, he played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League (USHL) in 2016-17, earning 58 points (29g, 29a) in 48 games and was named USHL Rookie of the Year.
With many rumors and talk that Carolina might trade its lofty pick, nine spots up from the No. 11 position it held before the NHL Draft Lottery, a pre-Draft meeting with Svechnikov made it an easy decision.
“As a player we all felt he was the guy,” president and general manager Don Waddell said.
“And then when you have the opportunity to spend time with him, it seals the deal.”
Though premature, there are heightened expectations that the Barnaul, Russia native should make the team’s opening-night roster.
“I’ll have a good summer to prepare for the next season,” he said.
“I will improve everything. My shot, my skating, my stick-handling.”
Notable: It was just fourth time in franchise history the Hurricanes took a player second overall, previously drafting center Eric Staal in 2003, defenseman Chris Pronger in 1993 and left wing Sylvain Turgeon in 1983…Svechnikov became just the eighth Russian selected by the Hurricanes in the NHL Draft in franchise history and the first since defenseman Igor Knyazev was taken 15th overall in the 2001 NHL Draft. In addition, he is the eighth Russian to be selected first or second overall in NHL Draft history and the first since Edmonton selected Nail Yakupov first overall in 2012.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport