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Canes' likely top pick Svechnikov has been to the NHL Draft, but it wasn't like this

Canes NHL draft prospect Andrei Svechnikov

Russian player Andrei Svechnikov, the presumptive No. 2 pick in this month's NHL draft, visited the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving a glimpse into his likely future -- and the team's.
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Russian player Andrei Svechnikov, the presumptive No. 2 pick in this month's NHL draft, visited the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving a glimpse into his likely future -- and the team's.

Some of this is familiar to Andrei Svechnikov, who was sitting next to his older brother Evgeny in Florida in 2015 when he was taken in the first round of the NHL draft. Not all of it.

Evgeny, while a fine prospect who has played in 16 games for the Detroit Red Wings already after being taken 19th overall, wasn't elevated into the same stratosphere Andrei has been this weekend in Dallas. He wasn't one of a handful of players invited to a clinic for kids like the one that Andrei participated in Thursday morning, or a glamorous media availability like Thursday afternoon's, high above the skyline in Reunion Tower, Dallas' famous light-bulb-esque spire.

It's an entirely different kind of experience being the presumptive No. 2 pick, where the Carolina Hurricanes will take the Russian winger Friday night if all goes as planned and expected, even if it's not exactly what he expected for himself when he sat with Evgeny as a 15-year-old.

“Not really,” Svechnikov said. “I was sitting there and just proud of my brother because he was drafted. I was kind of like, I think I will be drafted too, and it's great.”

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Andrei Svechnikov attends the Top Prospects Media Availability at the NHL Scouting Combine on June 1, 2018 at HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York. Bill Wippert NHLI via Getty Images

What the two drafts have in common is the family reunion. While Andrei and Evgeny's mother has lived with them in North America, their father has remained home in Barnaul, on the edge of Siberia, minding the family store. This will be, again, one of the rare times they can all celebrate a hockey milestone together.

While Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has been the consensus top pick in the draft for months, if not years, and is ticketed for the Buffalo Sabres in that spot, Svechnikov had to fend off competition for the No. 2 spot, which he has since solidified.

Now, his time has come. As a prospect. And as a player the Hurricanes think can be a star. Soon.

The Hurricanes went into the draft lottery intending to explore every opportunity to leverage their pick to move up or down and exited it in a far better position than they ever could have imagined.

The more they got to know Svechnikov – in addition to interviews and a private on-ice workout at the draft combine in Buffalo, he spent two days visiting Raleigh earlier this month, the first time the Hurricanes have ever hosted a prospective draft pick – the higher the price became to move down a few spots. Astronomically high. Unrealistically high.

That made Svechnikov's selection a fait accompli, especially once it became clear that the Montreal Canadiens were likely to use the No. 3 pick on Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who the Hurricanes view as a future top-line center and had thought might be available later in the early part of the first round.

But even the Hurricanes see Kotkaniemi as a step below Svechnikov, who has spent the past two years living in North America, has an NHL-ready 6-foot-2, 188-pound frame and scored 40 goals in 44 games in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

“He's the ideal combination of size, skating and skill,” Hurricanes chief scout Tony MacDonald said.

Svechnikov also visited the Ottawa Senators, who hold the No. 4 pick, before the draft, and had dinner with the Canadiens on Wednesday in Dallas, along with fellow top prospect Pavel Zadina. It all had the ring of formalities, since the Hurricanes have left absolutely zero doubt that Svechnikov is their guy.

Even Svechnikov knows it -- he killed time with Dundon at a hotel Starbucks as Thursday afternoon dragged on -- even if he can't quite admit it publicly.

“Yeah, I read, but let's see what's going to happen,” he said. “I can't say, really. I can't talk now because I'm not drafted yet. I can talk with you about it tomorrow.”

There's still a possibility the Hurricanes could try to package a few of Saturday's picks to move back into the first round if one of the players they have high on their board is still available, especially since the team has drafted so many players in the past few years that it is likely to be wrestling with the 50-contract limit for the foreseeable future as the promising ones transition to the pros.

More likely, they'll only take Svechnikov on Friday. And sleep well.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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