Saturday, June 5, 2010

21st - Detroit Red Wings Draft Preview

The winged-wheel is as recognizable a team logo as there is in the NHL and maybe in all of professional sports. Like Montréal, it's hard to imagine the club not having that emblem on their chests as they take to the ice. However, this is the crest that Detroit wore during the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field and I have to admit that I quite like it. Again, simplicity works and the expansion USHL team in Dubuque Iowa must agree because they've adopted something very similar to this for their uniforms next year.

1st pick last year: Landon Ferraro (32nd overall) – A serious knee injury limited him to 53 games this past season and even upon his return he struggled with consistency but did manage 46 points. It’s expected that Ferraro will be moved to another WHL team in the off season after he had a falling out with head coach Jesse Wallin and was a healthy scratch for Red Deer’s final playoff game.

The Good: Darren Helm (132nd overall, 2005) – A terrific selection in the 5th round, Helm’s NHL experience in his first two seasons was mostly in the playoffs. The speedster is in a great position to replace and carry on the tradition of Kirk Maltby and Kris Draper as an elite 2-way, forechecking, penalty killing dynamo. Just for good measure, Helm added 11 goals and 24 points as well.

The Bad: Thomas McCollum (30th overall, 2008) – Now before people start complaining that I’m taking a guy who just made his pro debut this past season, let me explain. First, the Red Wings haven’t really made a mistake in the the early rounds of the last 5 years and even the players that haven’t played in the NHL yet, they’re still in the picture and it would be premature to label them as busts. So why McCollum then? He was horrible at the 2009 WJC for USA and this past year his AHL stats were far from impressive (30 GP, 10 wins, .881 SV% an 3.48 GAA). My last reason? Jacob Markstrom, the near concensus top goalie outside the NHL, was taken 1 pick later.

The Unknown: Jakub Kindl (19th overall, 2005) – The former Kitchener Ranger import has now played three years on the farm in Grand Rapids and has back-to-back 33 point campaigns on his resumé. Does Nicklas Lindstrom’s signing negatively impact a possible promotion for Kindl?

Coming Down the Pipe: Newly signed (and charged with disorderly conduct) defenceman Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl lead the future blueline hopefuls for the Red Wings. Smith had an outstanding year on the ice leading the NCAA in d-men scoring with 52 points. Goaltender Daniel Larsson still has a lot of potential and has two AHL years under his belt. Up front Detroit looks to Ferraro, Tomas Tatar, Andrej Nestrasil and maybe a dark horse like Brent Raedeke for future contributions. RFA Justin Abdelkader appeared in 50 games last year but should get more playing time next year.

Draft Trends: Detroit has drafted this high only once since 1991 so it’s tough to find a 1st round trend. In the last 7 years, Detroit’s first picks (not necessarily 1st rounders) by position have been 2 goalies, 2 defencemen and 3 forwards. The Red Wings always take a Swede at some point in the draft but not always in the early stages and they pick from other European countries too. CHL, NCAA, Europe... all at pretty much the same rate. There really is no big pattern to Detroit’s choices. The Wings have recently invited guys who didn’t get drafted to their prospect camp and have come away signing both Raedeke and Willie Coetzee that way.

2010 Prediction 21st overall:

Dean Millard: Jonathan Merrill (NTDP) - Merrill almost played in the USHL as a 15-year-old before heading to the U.S. National program. He’s a big stay at home defenceman but at 6’3 and 200 lbs he has to play more physical than he does. He also hasn’t shown a lot of offensive ability but if he had either of the latter 2 attributes he’d be a top ten guy. Maybe a team thinks he has that stored away and will take him much higher, but I see him as a steady stay at home type. That will work for the Wings.

Guy Flaming: Mark Pysyk (Edmonton) – I haven’t seen another 2010 prospect more than I have the Oil Kings defenceman but I’ve had a hard time trying to describe him to people when they ask me about him. To me Pysyk has very few flaws in his game although I would say his shot and aggression level leave me both wanting more. I think he could have a huge offensive season next year because of how smart he is and the way he moves the puck. His skating is exceptional and his defensive positioning is outstanding. At the junior level he’s a tireless worker that logs a boatload of minutes and rarely ever looks fatigued. I honestly think he's just scratching the surface of his potential. One scout told me that he reminds him of a poor man’s Nick Lidstrom... well what better team for him to go to than this?

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