Well, it’s that time of year again. The wait for October is full swing as we head into the meat of the NHL Offseason with the NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy. First out of the two is the NHL Draft, and it looks to be relatively shallow this year in the talent pool. Nonetheless, the Red Wings shine on this occasion no matter what kind of draft it is and there are many interesting storylines again this time around.
Depth Between the Pipes
On the Detroit Red Wings organizational depth chart, there are many positions that are pretty stocked up with players that look to have sparkling futures in the NHL. The questionable spot is goaltending. The Wings have Petr Mrazek waiting in the wings in the AHL to be a probable everyday starter in the NHL, as well as World Juniors representative for Canada Jake Paterson and back-up goalie Jared Coreau in the AHL as well. Outside of that however, the depth for the future is a question. Look for the Wings to answer this in rounds 3-7 if tenders like Brandon Halverson, Devin Williams, or Matthew Mancina are available.
Will Size Be a Factor?
The Wings have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league, but there is one area offensively where the Wings lack strength in: sizable forwards. In today’s game, size seems to be an increasingly important factor, in the regular season and even more in the postseason. The current crop of forwards the Red Wings have is one of the most talented and highly touted in the league with their versatile quality. Guys like Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Anthony Mantha have shown this quality in their respective leagues. Pulkkinen and Mantha have been the snipers and Tatar, Jurco, Athanasiou, and Nyquist have shown their speed and elusiveness that NHL and NHL caliber forwards have. Currently, Marek Tvrdon, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Nosek and Louis-Marc Aubry are the good-size guys in the system for Detroit. To supplant these prospects with another big body or two would be a solid decision to make for the Red Wings braintrust going forward. Model players for this addition include Alex Tuch, Brendan Lemieux, Hunter Smith, and Shane Eiserman to name a few on the North American side.
Depth At the Back End
When one thinks Red Wings defensemen waiting in the Wings, one thinks of names like Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko, Adam Almqvist (Signed in KHL), and even European newcomer Mattias Backman. There’s no question that these names have solid potential to be the next defensive core that the Red Wings have to offer, but they could be coming up quite soon and fast. With defensemen Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff having regressive seasons, they look expendable. Jonathan Ericsson has had plenty of years to develop and he still hasn’t found a way to put it all together. This offseason, the Red Wings have a decision to make with their current state of the blue line: Do they go internal with their top defensive studs, or grab a veteran or two from the free agent or trade market? Either decision the Wings make, the position of defenseman on the organizational depth chart could use a little bolstering with their top defensive prospects’ NHL days seeming sooner than later. Notable prospects after the top five include Nick Jensen, Max Nicastro, and Marc McNulty. Top players who could boost the organizational depth of the back end include Anthony DeAngelo, Julius Honka and Haydn Fleury if available, Roland McKeown, Brandon Montour, and Gavin Bayreuther.
To Trade Or Not to Trade
With the Red Wings literally in the middle of the pack of the draft this year, there is always the question of trading up or trading down for more picks in the later rounds or a higher first rounder. Last year saw the Wings trading down, which saw them eventually snag Anthony Mantha, the only 50-goal scorer in the draft and possibly the next great NHL sniper. The draft is labeled as relatively shallow after the top players this year including Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle, etc. Would the Wings be willing to give up one of their key future pieces for an immediate impactful player like one of the top 20? It’s up in the air, and if the Wings were to trade for a higher selection my bet would be to draft a defenseman. Since Ekblad is expected to be the in the top three and Haydn Fleury along with Julius Honka are expected to be picked a shave higher than Detroit, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question for the latter guys. Since the Wings are extremely successful in later rounds, if there are any trades involved with Detroit, it is more likely to be a trade down rather than up for more picks in later rounds, likely the 2nd round with the absence of a pick there from the David Legwand trade. However, one never knows what Ken Holland has up his sleeve. Being a relatively conservative GM however, the trade down is more likely, if any trade occurs dealing with picks. For current NHL players on the trade block? Well, that’s just another thought that’s flowing through Holland’s head until the Wings are on the clock.
Who Do They Pick On Friday Night?
With the 15th pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings select…..Alex Tuch.
This is a very tricky selection. There are many players that fit Detroit’s system that they could take at #15, but this writer believes that Alex Tuch is the best of those. Tuch recently completed his 2nd tour of duty with the U-18 United States National Team Development Program, and he finished with a bang. A +35, 7 game-winning goals kind of bang. He also chipped in with 29 goals and 64 points in 53 games, good for third on the team. Tuch is 6’4″ and 213 pounds, and shoots right(a bonus). He also is versatile, as he can play right wing and center. This is a quality that Detroit has always liked with its forwards, as many in their system have this ability to slot in at different positions. Tuch possesses this ability along with having a good size frame of 213 lbs. A much needed big guy that fits the system; a match made in heaven for the Red Wings. He has comitted to Boston College to play hockey in the Fall, and it may be a while for him to make it to the NHL, but it would be a wait worth while.
If Not Tuch….
Haydn Fleury (Defenseman, Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
If the Wings choose to go to defense for their 1st round pick, Haydn Fleury would be the best option if still available. His size is preferred for a future NHL defenseman(6’2″, 202 lbs) and his skating ability is grade A. The ability he has to start up rushes is sparkling, and he would fit right in with Detroit’s farm of good puck movers. He had eight goals and 46 points in 70 games, leading the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL on defense. It is likely that he will go before the Red Wings make their pick, but if he is still available, he could be a valuable future piece of a building blueline in Hockeytown should the Wings consider.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh1AHKGybNw (YT user bigwhite06)
Jared McCann (Center, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
A position once filled to the brim in the Detroit Red Wings farm, centers have come up and down from the AHL and NHL and the depth has thinned just a tick. Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Landon Ferraro all saw some NHL time this season, and the first two of the three could be on the starting roster for Detroit on opening night. Ferraro is an up and comer, and looks to be the next center on the horizon for the Red Wings with Mattias Janmark going overseas and Calle Jarnkrok getting traded to Nashville. Unless, Jared McCann comes in. McCann is 6’0″, 175 lbs. and has a whole lot of promise. A left-handed shooter, McCann tallied 27 goals and 62 points in 64 games. He models his two-way style off of Jonathan Toews, and can rip shots with the best of them. If Tuch is taken ahead or McCann is available, he would be a good candidate that will float in Ken Holland’s head come pick time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umr1Ip5SimU (YT user bigwhite06)
Julius Honka (Defenseman, Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
Again, if the Wings want to go defensive, they’d be taking a chance with Julius Honka. If available, he would bring a size of 5’7″ and 180 lbs. At first thought, that size will scare most. However, don’t just look at this kid’s size. His body of work he’s turned in is pretty impressive given that he is the #11th ranked skater in North America. He chipped in 16 goals and 56 points in 62 games, a solid body of work for a defenseman in any league. His uncanny ability to put a shot through traffic and feed his teammates getting into open space is highly touted. The big question is his size. Honka has his doubters to be an NHL defenseman, but with a kid this talented offensively, it might not matter in the long run.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDYpDxpB5Zw (YT user bigwhite06)
Anthony DeAngelo (Defenseman, Sarnia Sting, OHL)
Talk about point production, if this guy is available, he could lead the charge of the next great Red Wings defensive core. Anthony DeAngelo has progressed in his career in the OHL the last three years. In 11 fewer games than 2012-13, DeAngelo produced 13 more points for a total of 71 in 51 games, chipping in 15 goals in 2013-14. Another smaller guy, DeAngelo is 5’11”, 170 lbs. He certainly will need to bulk up, but when he does, he has a lot of potential to be a star for Detroit on the back end with the talent he has. A grade A skater, wonderful puck mover who can get the puck to the net through traffic, and one who has silky smooth hands. That’s Anthony DeAngelo. Hey, the Anthony the Wings picked in the first round last year looks to have a big future, why not this one?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y6EZelod3I (YT user Prospect Guru)
Sonny Milano (Left Wing, USA US-18, USHL)
If the Wings want to add another piece to their left wing crop, Sonny Milano could be a great addition at 15. In his 3rd year in the USA Development System, he had his best year yet. In 50 games, Milano totalled 24 goals and 72 points. If there’s one thing to note about Milano, it’s his one-on-one play. An explosive skater, Milano has the hands to skate through defensemen at will. He’s got a good shot and tremendous puck moving ability. At 6’0″ and 183 lbs., Milano has plenty of room for growth. He has committed to Boston College to play hockey in the Fall, so it might be a while for Milano like it might be for Alex Tuch. With the talent Milano has, he would be worth the wait.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz0dX8SPyC0 (YT user Bo Freatman)
Dylan Larkin (Center, USA US-18, USHL)
If the Wings want to go closer to home, they have their player in Dylan Larkin. A center that would add depth to the prospect pool at that position, the Waterford native is 6’1″ and 190 lbs. In 53 games with the USA-18 Development Team, Larkin topped 49 points, with 29 goals. He has been with the USA Development Camp for two seasons, and he had a 22 point increase from the previous season, adding 16 more goals. Larkin is certainly growing fast, and he has made his committment to college for the Fall. He will attend the University of Michigan and play under Red Berenson, a coach who has taken a great number of future NHL players under his wing, most recently Carl Hagelin, Jacob Trouba, Max Pacioretty and Luke Glendening. If a gritty center is on their radar, the Red Wings would be making a good pick taking Larkin at 15 to add to their deep pool of prospects.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgRsCw8xJZc (YT user bigwhite06)
Kevin Fiala (Center, EURO HV 71 Jr., SHL)
This guy already gets points for his nationality. The Wings love their Swedes, and it would be no different with Kevin Fiala. In 27 games this past season, he totalled 10 goals and 25 points. Fiala is far from one-dimensional. He backchecks, his forecheck is impressive, and his ability to drive the net for his size(5’9″, 178 lbs.) is solid. His two-way play fits the Wings’ system and would provide a solid future piece at the center position. With the all-around talent Fiala has, he could become the next Super Swede in Hockeytown for future years. If the Wings want to go overseas with their efforts to build back up the center pool, Fiala would be the best option at his position.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsKw6Xnw49c (YT user bigwhite06)
There are certainly many storylines and possible players to pick for Detroit at selection #15. Will they answer the goaltending depth, use size as a factor, build up depth at the blueline or faceoff circle, or even trade for a player or more picks? All the questions will be answered tonight in Philadelphia, and the excitement in the hockey world is mounting.
Let’s Go Kenny H.
Proud Member and Supporter of the DSBA.
Detroit Red Wings prospect information courtesy of HockeysFuture
2014 NHL Draft Prospect information courtesy of NHL.com
Highlight videos courtesy of YouTube users bigwhite06, Bo Freatman, and Prospect Guru.
Featured image courtesy of Freep.com