On the first day of training camp for the Carolina Hurricanes, Andrei Svechnikov was pushing himself.
In skating drills at the end of practice Thursday at PNC Arena, Svechnikov stayed just ahead of his group, the leader if only by a stride, keeping his nose in front.
“I feel strong, my body feels strong,” Svechnikov said.
And the skating?
“It’s always my goal to be the first everywhere,” he said. “My mom always keeps saying to me, ‘You have to be first everywhere.’ She’s always told me that, especially when I was a kid.
“I’ve remembered that for all my life. So, I’ve been pushing myself. Of course I push myself.”
Be first everywhere.
For Svechnikov, that also means as a forward in the NHL. At 22, he has the physical build of the prototype power forward, has the look of a star. He also is aware that much more is expected from a player taken second overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Svechnikov scored 30 goals last season. Could he get to 40 this season? Should he? Where is the ceiling?
“There’s a lot more there,” Svechnikov said. “I know I have lots of room to improve, to prove it to everyone and prove it as well to myself. I worked this summer and I feel I got better.
“We’ll see this season. Hopefully everything is going to be good for me. That’s my goal, to be a star, so I will do for that everything.”
Svechnikov said he spent three months at home in Russia, putting in the daily work. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour has never had to worry about Svechnikov’s commitment to offseason conditioning — other than Svechnikov maybe overdoing it at times.
Svechnikov said he has returned for training camp at 200 pounds. The work, he said, has paid off.
Not that it was all work, all the time. A video on Twitter showed him being teased by an ice cream vendor, Svechnikov snatching at the cone while the vendor kept pulling it away — picture Charlie, Lucy and the football in Peanuts.
Svechnikov did finally get his cone, smiling Thursday and saying, “I like my ice cream.”
Svechnikov returned to Raleigh to find a locker room with some new faces — Brent Burns, Paul Stastny and Ondrej Kase, among others.
“We’ve had some big changes before,” he said. “Once I came in (for camp) and it was like 11 new guys. It’s not as many this year but it’s good we got those guys. They’re a little older and have got lots of experience, so I’m very excited to see them and how they will be leaders on this team.”
Brind’Amour, beginning his fifth year as head coach, likes the look of the group, and its possibilities. The goal, as it has been, is to win the Stanley Cup.
“I think everybody’s excited for the journey ahead,” he said.