There’s no doubting Andrei Svechnikov has held the title as the top forward of the 2018 NHL Draft class.
Filip Zadina is doing his best to challenge that.
Zadina, an import pick of the Halifax Mooseheads, has been piling up the points as a rookie in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — situating himself amongst the league leaders in offensive production.
Svechnikov, an import pick of the Barrie Colts, has held the title as top forward available in the 2018 draft, but was slowed by a broken hand after scoring at a goal-per-game clip to start his Ontario Hockey League career.
Both can be considered high-end talents.
But how do they compare with one another?
SKATING – SVECHNIKOV
Svechnikov has a very powerful stride that utilizes an explosive first step to generate high levels of straight-line speed. Coupling this speed with the balance and strength to protect the puck makes him hard to contain. He uses his strong legs to make quick and precise cuts and turns that open up space for himself. He moves around the ice effortlessly and is able to start and stop on pucks. He jumps off the mark with a quick crossover or two, showing off his powerful lower half that also allows him to maintain his speed while carrying the puck. Svechnikov really has the quickness and foot speed of a much smaller player as he catches guys off guard with his brute force and quick acceleration for a guy with his size. There is no doubt that Svechnikov’s skating is already at an NHL level and will be even more of an asset as he continues to build more power.
Zadina is no slouch on his feet either. When he keeps his feet churning, he can move all over the ice with impressive lateral agility and open up space with solid bursts of speed. He has impressive balance on his feet to pull off moves in traffic at high speeds. Zadina is just not as strong on his feet as Svechnikov and that is what gives the edge to the big Russian.
PUCK-HANDLING – ZADINA
Zadina has outstanding puck skills and very quick, creative hands. He is a real treat to watch dance around the offensive zone with his vision and poise. He’s simply confident and creative with the puck. What makes Zadina really dangerous is that defenders do not know if he will pull a sick deke, take a quick shot, or dish the puck off to an open teammate at any given moment; and that keeps defenses on their heels whenever he has the puck. He also displays an active stick to steal pucks off opponents on the back check.
Svechnikov also has impressive puck handling skills with the ability to dance through the offensive zone, in tight space and through defenders, but does his most damage controlling the puck along the wall or in traffic because of his strength and size advantage. He bulldozes his way from the outside towards the net and is hard to stop. Zadina can dominant games with the puck on his stick due to his impressively creativity and slick hands. His shiftiness with the puck gives Zadina the nod in this category.
SHOT – SVECHNIKOV
Svechnikov is a pure goal scorer, and he does not waste a lot of time to fire the puck once he gets into position. He’s dangerous in the slot area due to his impressive wrist shot, which he can fire on net in the blink of an eye. He does a good job transferring his weight off his back foot and generating power into his shot without much space to wind up. His accuracy allows him to pick the smallest holes in a goaltenders stance.
Zadina is more of a dual threat playmaker and goal scorer offensive player, leaning a little more to the playmaking aspect. He does have the flashy skills to either deke the goaltender with a quick move or put the puck under the bar to finish off a play. His shot is not as heavy as Svechnikov, but still highly effective. As a natural finisher with NHL ready shot this category goes to Svechnikov.
PASSING – ZADINA
Zadina is a pass-first player who makes some nice cross-ice feeds through tight spaces. He displays his elite vision, as he is always aware of his line mates positioning and how to get them the puck in open ice.
Svechnikov is a scorer who displays strong vision and accurate distribution of the puck, but looks to take the puck to scoring areas himself more often than not. He is strong at the short to medium range touch passes, give and goes, in and around traffic areas more so than Zadina, who can hold the puck with patience and distributing it at just the right time. Zadina takes this category as he is always looking to setup teammates, and does so with impressive creativity and timing.
PLAY WITHOUT PUCK – SVECHNIKOV
Svechnikov is very calm and confident in all situations. He is polished for his age and his well-developed awareness allows him to dominant as an all-around player. His defensive game is not his strength, as he is considered an offensive player, but the tools are there for him to be a menace down low thanks to his strength. His long reach allows him to catch opponents off guard and to win loose puck battles frequently. Svechnikov helps his defenders out down low and can be surprisingly physical when needed. He’s good in puck pursuit and uses his long reach to close off passing lanes effectively on the fore check. He covers lots of ground with his reach and skating ability. He also has a good understanding of his role as a winger on defense, and does a good job of skating into breakout passes to move the puck out of the defensive zone with a head of steam.
Zadina can dominant games with the puck on his stick due to his impressively creativity and playmaking skills but he also has a penchant for stealing pucks and creating turnovers as he uses his timing and active stick to lift pucks from opponents before quickly turning back up ice. Give this one to Svechnikov, as he has a better rounded game and just seems to adapt to defenses more fluidly than Zadina.
PHYSICALITY/STRENGTH – SVECHNIKOV
Both prospects have decent size and use their strength along the wall to win pucks or to get to scoring areas. Svechnikov plays more of the true power game however and spends considerably more time in the greasy areas of the ice. With regards to standing up for one’s self, Svechnikov does not think twice to do so as that is a natural part of his temperament and game. The talented Russia still has some considerable muscle mass to add to his athletic frame while Zadina might be close to where his playing weight ends up at the NHL level. Svechnikov uses his current strength more effectively and consistently than Zadina so he gets the nod in this category.
HOCKEY IQ – SVECHNIKOV
Both display solid smarts and on-ice intelligence. Svechnikov has the adaptability and ability to change his game for the situation, bringing more of a power game when defenses try to stand him up or play him tough, using his finesse to dangle when given room and get to high percentage scoring areas and also recognizing when he needs to play a safer two-way game. He constantly impresses with the level of maturity in his game as he doesn’t make many bad decisions, trying to do too much, or force plays that aren’t there.
Zadina shows really strong offensive zone IQ, reading defenses and when it comes to creating offense but does not have the same overall senses as Svechnikov.
So, who do you take for your team if you were drafting, and why?