Hockey fans in North America will get another close look at the potential 2018 first-overall pick this season, as Mike Morreale of NHL.com reports that Andrei Svechnikov will indeed sign with the Barrie Colts and play in the OHL. Svechnikov was the first pick in this year’s CHL Import Draft, and will leave the USHL for the Canadian junior squad.
Born in Russia and brought up through the Ak Bars Kazan junior system—where he once scored 53 points in just 13 games— Svechnikov came over to play for the Muskegon Lumberjacks last season and showed off his immense offensive upside. In 48 games played mostly as a 16-year old, Svechnikov scored 58 points and trailed just Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt and undrafted 18-year old Zach Solow in points-per-game.
Svechnikov is already 6’2″ and strong enough to compete with players three years older than him, has excellent speed and incredible skill. Already in the conversation for the first-overall pick, he’s just scraping the surface of what he can do physically on the ice, and could easily develop into an even more dangerous power forward within a few years. He’ll head to Barrie to work with coach Dale Hawerchuk (a first-overall pick in his own right) to try and help the franchise bounce back.
After five straight winning seasons, the Colts were the very worst team in the OHL this season with just 17 wins all year. With a player like Svechnikov in tow, they will immediately be improved. Whether that’s enough to get them into the playoffs may be another story altogether.