2008-2009 Top 12 Prospects: Detroit Red Wings

Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
5/19/2009 3:11:36 PM
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Considering that the Red Wings have not had many first round draft choices from 1997 to 2004, they sure have mined out some golden prospects. They have been astute at finding talent in the later rounds - with Pavel Datsyuk 171st overall in 1998, Henrik Zetterberg 210th in 1999 and Johan Franzen 97th overall in 2004.

And in addition to their current group of top picks, there have been later round gems like Logan Pyett and Darren Helm - all with great NHL potential. The advantage the Red Wings have had is their philosophy of developing prospects slowly and playing the same system in both the AHL and NHL clubs.

On defence, they are perhaps a year away from bringing in youngsters like Jakub Kindl, Logan Pyett, Sergei Kolosov, Max Nicastro and Brendan Smith. While Kindl and Smith are first-round picks, it looks like late-rounders Pyett and Kolosov have adjusted to the pro ranks quickly. Derek Meech and Jonathan Ericsson have played enough pro games (AHL and NHL) and are off the prospect list. Overall, the Red Wings some talent on the blueline but additional depth wouldn't hurt.

The club has some potential scoring depth at forward with Helm, Corey Emmerton, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Anderson, Mattias Ritola, Jan Mursak, Dick Axelsson and Justin Abdelkader. A couple of forwards that have graduated off the prospect list (but have not made a full time jump to the NHL) are Evan McGrath and the talented Ville Leino. It will be interesting to see which of these prospects could turn into the next Tomas Holmstrom, Franzen, Datsyuk or Zetterberg.

In goal, the Wings have three possible long-term replacements for Chris Osgood. The first two that will get a shot are Jimmy Howard and Daniel Larsson, who have both paid their dues in the minors. Now Howard has played enough games as professional to graduate off the prospect list, but he still has a chance to play in the NHL. Larsson has shown promise and potential after a couple of good years in the Swedish Elite League and a solid rookie season in the AHL. The Wings' latest first-round pick is American Thomas McCollum (the most talented of the trio), who will take the longest to develop.

At this year's NHL draft, it might be a good idea to focus on high-end talented forwards who have a chance to play on the top two lines in the first couple of rounds.

1. Thomas McCollum - Goalie, 19 (1st round 30th overall 2008)
Currently with Brampton (OHL)

He has the size, athleticism, demeanor you look for in a goaltender. McCollum came to the OHL three seasons ago from upstate New York as a rookie and has never looked back. He shows good balance on his skates and has great core strength, remaining upright without slouching forward when he drops down. His lateral movement and agility from post-to-post is very good and the strength in his legs and lower back allow him to recover quickly. Overall, his mechanics are tight and consistent, staying in a compact frame without exposing holes near his body. He can also be aggressive in cutting down the angles against shooters and maintains good net presence. He does not get caught out of position very often when he is out of the blue paint. McCollum has the ability to throw out a quick glove hand, but is not flashy and deflects pucks pretty well with his blocker. He has improved on his rebound control and remains calm with heavy traffic - especially in the playoffs. He shows good hockey sense in reading the developing play, but must track the puck better and relax and trust his instincts. He is a good communicator with his defencemen and does not get on them if things go array. Like all young goalies, he must be more patient and make sure he sticks to good fundamentals. He has the skill to be a No. 1 goaltender one day.

2. Jakub Kindl - Defense, 22 (1st round 19th overall 2005)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

Kindl is a slick puck-moving defenceman with the size (6 -3 and 206 pounds) to play both ends of the ice. After three seasons and 178 games in the OHL (with 127 points and plus-42 rating along with 346 penalty minutes) he was in need of another challenge. His first season as a pro had not gone completely as planned, as his point production dropped to 14 points in 65 games. What was most disappointing was his defensive game, as he hit a low of minus-27 and had difficulties with his defensive reads. This season, Kindl settled down and looked like a quality first-round pick, making quick reads and playing a high-tempo game. He has the ability to make a good first pass and create some time and space for himself and his teammates. He certainly does not shy away from the rough play and will battle hard down low for loose pucks. Kindl has the ability to be a strong defensive player, but may need another year of development. He could be a top three defenceman in the near future.

3. Justin Abdelkader - Left Wing/Center, 22 (2nd round 42nd overall 2005)
Currently with Detroit (NHL)

The former Spartan from Muskegon, Michigan had a solid career in college, posting 95 points in 124 games. He had a host of great experiences - from the WJC in Sweden to winning the national championship. That will serve him well in the future. In his first season in the AHL, Abdelkader adjusted to the aggression, speed and tempo very quickly. In 76 games, he posted 52 points along with 102 penalty minutes and looked just as good in the postseason. He has the tools to play in the NHL and could be a second-line forward one day. He skates well and shows the hockey sense and puck skills to produce offence on a regular basis. When it comes to the forecheck, Abdelkader is effective banging and crashing along the wall and hanging around the net. He shows a physical presence, but still can be effective in a puck possession game. He just needs a little more seasoning and consistency. He does not do any one thing great, but does not have any major flaws and could develop into a versatile role player.

4. Darren Helm - Left Wing, 22 (5th round 122nd overall 2005)
Currently with Detroit (NHL)

Helm is a smart, two-way winger with the potential to develop into a valuable third-line role player. He's not the biggest player at 5-10 and 182 pounds, but he has moxie and determination. He has above average puck skills and good hockey sense, which helps him make the most of his opportunities. He's a fast skater that can cause problems on the forecheck and jump on loose pucks and fill gaps with his quickness. He shows decent hands and his wrist shot and has some zip and accuracy. His defensive game is solid and he works hard on the little nuances - like taking proper angles, keeping an active stick and his head on a swivel. He made a quick transition to the pro ranks and picked up 68 points in 122 games in the AHL. He's already played 23 games in the NHL and has not looked out of place. The fact he has played almost as many games in the NHL playoffs as the regular season says something about his reliability. He's a clutch player in the postseason and has had winning experiences from junior, WJC and the NHL.

5. Brendan Smith - Defense, 20 (1st round 27th overall 2007)
Currently with Wisconsin (NCAA)

An unfortunate injury cut his freshman season short, but the skinny blueliner showed some flashes. His sophomore season gave the Red Wings hope, as he posted excellent offensive numbers with 23 points in 31 games. He has the hockey sense to play a high-tempo game and the puck skills to play the possession game the Red Wings prefer. He sees the ice well, can make good breakout passes and he quickly deciphers his best options. He has a good shot and accuracy for a defenceman and usually gets the puck on net. He skates well and shows good agility and quickness, but needs more power to give him an extra gear. He has a knack for getting pucks through on the power play and could be a valuable asset in the future. He is improving defensively, reads and anticipates the play well and just needs to tweak little things like gap control, good angles and maintaining body position. He will need two-to-three seasons before he's is ready to make the jump - and the Wings will be patient.

6. Daniel Larsson - Goalie, 23 (3rd round 92nd overall 2006)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

The Swedish netminder has the potential to become an NHL netminder, but at what capacity remains to be seen. He is not the biggest goaltender, so Larsson must be consistent in his angles and ability to read and anticipate the developing play. He does a pretty good job of maintaining a compact frame when moving in the crease. On occasion, his angles can be off - which opens up holes especially if stays to far back in his net. His play down low is good and he's hard to beat if you do not go up high or get him moving a lot. He displays a quick glove hand and can deflect shots off the blocker, but he must stay on his feet a little longer. He must continue to work on his rebound control and endurance to take the next step to the NHL.

7. Logan Pyett - Defense, 20 (7th round 212th overall 2006)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

Pyett is a vastly underrated defenseman who has shown the offensive prowess and hockey sense to become an NHL player. He is good at maintaining puck possession and being patient with the puck to make the right decisions. He's not tall at 5-11, but he is sturdy at 200 pounds and does not get pushed around in his own zone. His point production has been outstanding from the blueline - in 273 games in the WHL he has posted 186 points and can be effective on the power play. His rookie season in the AHL saw him post 14 points in 61 games, but he showed promise. His play with Team Canada at the WJC was solid and the experience will serve him well in the professional ranks long term. Expect Pyett to play another two seasons in the AHL before getting a shot at an NHL roster spot.

8. Mattias Ritola - Right Wing, 22 (4th round 103rd 2005)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

After a couple of seasons in North America, the Swedish forward has made decent strides and has a reasonable chance of playing some games at the NHL level. It took Ritola a while to adjust to a faster pace and more aggressive game. He is beginning to understand that he must make quicker plays with the puck and go into traffic to succeed. He has enough size to compete and battle for loose pucks. His 42 points in 66 games this season almost doubled his stats from last year. He shows above average pucks skills and hockey sense, but he may not he might not be able to duplicate those numbers in the NHL. He needs to continue to work on his defensive game and become a responsible puck possession defender. He's a project at this point that shows promise and may need another year or two in the AHL before the Wings know if he can play at the NHL.

9. Cory Emmerton - Left Wing, 20 (2nd round 41st overall 2006)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

He's a creative offensive minded player who has the hockey sense to develop into a pro player. His 255 points in 218 games in the OHL is an indicator of that, however he will need to work on a few things but the tools are there. At six feet and 190 pounds, he could use a little more strength and size to battle one-on-one and could also gain more confidence in that area. His puck skills cannot be denied and perhaps a couple years in the AHL will allow him to work on his intangibles and defensive play.

10. Joakim Andersson - Centre, 20 (3rd round 88th overall 2007)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)
After a solid season in the Swedish Elite League, Andersson came over to North America and played a few games in the playoffs. Overall, he has good size at 6-2 and 200 pounds and has the hockey sense to play at the pro level in North America. He does not possess an elite level of puck skills when it comes to passing and stickhandling, but his smarts get him by. He could use a little more jump in his quickness and another gear in his stride, but Andersson's skating ability should not hold him back. He can produce a reasonable amount of offensive production, but his forte is on the defensive side of the puck. At what level he plays is still unclear and another season in the AHL would give a better indication of his potential.

11. Dick Axelsson - Left Wing, 22 (2nd round 62nd overall 2006)
Currently with Djurgardens/Farjestads (SWE)

Axelsson is another big Swede (at 6-2 and 200 pounds) that had a solid season in the Swedish Elite League. In 39 games, he posted 30 points and 42 penalty minutes and has that bang and crash mentality shared by fellow countrymen Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom. He plays up and down the wing and shows defensive responsibility with good skating ability. It remains to be seen if his puck skills and hockey sense will translate quickly to the North American ice, but he will not be pressured to develop quickly. He shows good hands around the net and sees the ice well, but he will have to adapt to playing a rougher style with a much longer schedule.

12. Jan Mursak - Right Wing, 21 (6th round 182nd overall 2006)
Currently with Grand Rapids (AHL)

The Slovenian dynamo reminds some people of current player on the Detroit roster - Jiri Hudler. He surprised many scouts and dominated offensively, with 80 points in 62 games two seasons ago season in the OHL. He is a still skinny at 5-11 and 170 pounds, but he is not afraid to get involved physically. He's blessed with exceptional skating ability and if gets an extra step on a defenseman, say goodbye because he's gone. He has the puck skills and the hockey sense to play at the NHL level and can change the speed of the game. Last year, he moved to a new OHL team and took a little time to adjust. He did pick up 64 points in 57 games, but has a chance to take his game to another level. As a rookie in the AHL, he seemed to be overwhelmed and only had nine points in 51 games. He must make a greater commitment to his fitness level to make an impact against opponents. Like Hudler, the Wings will patient with Mursak and let him develop.


Detroit Red Wings - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)

When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.


  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

Detroit Red Wings 1997-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
1997 8 (1) (LW) Yuri Butsayev (2/49)
1998 11 (2) (D) Jiri Fischer (1/25), (C) Pavel Datsyuk (6/171)
1999 6 (1) (LW) Henrik Zetterberg (7/210)
2000 11 (2) Niklas Kronwall (1/29), (RW) Tomas Kopecky (2/38)
2001 7 (0)
2002 10 (3+2 Pending) (RW) Jiri Hudler (2/58), (LW) Tomas Fleischmann (2/63), (RW) Valtteri Filppula (3/95), (D) Derek Meech (7/229), (D) Jonathan Ericsson (9/291)
2003 8 (1+1 Pending) (G) Jim Howard (2/56), (D) Kyle Quincy (4/132)

Total: 7 yrs - 61 draft picks - 10+3 Pending NHL Players = 16.4% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 2 total picks
Jiri Fischer, Niklas Kronwall
7 yrs - 2 draft picks - 2 NHL Players = 100.0% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 8 total picks
Ryan Barnes, Igor Grigorenko, Tomek Valtonen
7 yrs - 8 draft picks - 4 NHL Players = 50.0% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 3 total picks
- Petr Sykora, Jake McCracken,
7 yrs - 3 draft picks - 1 NHL Players = 33.3% success rate

7 yrs - 13 draft picks - 7 NHL Players = 53.8% success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (1) North American, (7) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (2) North American, (3) European

Success in the last six round (1997-2003)

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 48 total picks
7 yrs - 48 draft picks - 3 NHL Players = 6.25% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

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Darren Helm (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
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