Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One To Watch: Detroit Red Wings

A new conference and new, lower expectations are a couple of storylines for the Detroit Red Wings these days. No one is picking the Wings as Stanley Cup contenders anymore. In fact, there are some who wonder if a playoff spot might be in question and that seems odd attached to an organization that has been at the top for so long. 

One thing that does remain consistent in Motown is the courage to draft players other teams get cold feet on. While some questioned his hockey sense, Detroit looked at Anthony Mantha and saw 50 goals. Mitch Wheaton missed much of the season but the Wings take the chance on a 6'5, 230 lb blueliner. 

It's not the first year; A concussed Martin Frk in 2012. The penalty and suspension magnet named Mike McKee. Injury plagued Marek Tvrdon and Landon Ferraro.

The Red Wings are willing to look past junior level "flaws" and focus on the underlying positives that can be polished and developed as a pro. 

2012 Choice: Ryan Sproul - The talk after the 2012 draft was that had there been another month or two in the regular season, Sproul may have been a first rounder. Last year I asked if the defenceman could live up to those expectations and take a larger than normal step forward in his development. He ended the year with 66 points in 50 games and was named the CHL Defenceman of the Year.

My choice for Detroit's One to Watch in 2013-14 is after the jump.

Zach Nastasiuk (RW)
Owen Sound Attack 
6'1, 190 lbs
Drafted 48th Overall in 2013

Photo: Terry Wilson / OHL Images
Like Sproul, Nastasiuk came on in the second half of the season and he was eventually taken in the 2nd round of the draft by Detroit. The forward's stats line won't blow anyone away; he had 20 goals and 20 assists in 62 games. But it's what doesn't show up on the traditional stats package that makes Nastasiuk interesting to me. 

I had him on the show just a couple of weeks before the draft and was blown away. We're now into Season 9 of The Pipeline Show and over the years we have interviewed several hundreds of players but Nastasiuk stands out as one of the most composed and mature guys we've ever had on. 

Having spoken with teammates of his or coaches and scouts who know him well, the reports I get about Nastasiuk rave about his character and attitude. He's a guy that gets it. He knows what is expected of him and knows what he is capable of, where his strengths are and he focuses on that.  He takes pride in shutting down the opposition's top players and he can be physical and nasty without costing his team penalties.

Nastasiuk played the role for Canada at the World U18s in April. Eventually he'll likely get consideration for the U20 team before his junior eligibility is up. 

But this year I wonder if he can expand on his repertoire. Can Zach Nastasiuk be more of an offensive player while still being as sound defensively as he has been. I'm a fan and he can play for my team any day of the week. He's got all the character in the world, I want to know if he can be more than a heart and soul player.

That's why I've made Zach Nastasiuk my "One to Watch" for Detroit in 2013-14. 

Up Next: New Jersey Devils   

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