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September 5, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Detroit Red Wings

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Detroit Red Wings Top 10 Prospects

1. Brendan Smith, Defense
2. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
3. Calle Jarnkrok, Center
4. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
5. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
6. Damien Brunner, Right Wing
7. Adam Almqvist, Defense
8. Riley Sheahan, Center
9. Xavier Ouellet, Defense
10.Teemu Pulkkinen, Right Wing

Organizational Ranking: 3rd

System Overview: Detroit has built one of the league's top systems through quality work at the draft table, and they've held back some of their top young players back for a variety of reasons. They certainly have players with upside at each position—several top prospects who are ready step into the NHL and some who are a couple of years away.

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1. Brendan Smith, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 08/02/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 10 G, 34 P (Grand Rapids-AHL)
Acquired: First round, 27th overall in 2007 by Detroit

The Good: The recently turned 23-year-old Smith had a very successful second pro season and is now more than ready to play in the NHL. He's a fantastic offensive talent with very good skating and puck skills. Smith is a dangerous player leading the rush and manning the power play. Game-processing improvements have really elevated his stock, as he's shown better playmaking ability on top of picking his spots much better in terms of when to try and create offense. Smith has a fine work ethic and displays a decent physical game.

The Bad: Smith lacks a real glaring weakness aside from the fact that his defensive value doesn't really match his offensive component. That area of his game isn't bad, but it just isn't great. He's still a little bit of a gambler.

Projection: He could be a top pairing defender.

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2. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 09/01/1989
Age: 23
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 56 GP, 22 G, 58 P (Grand Rapids-AHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 121st overall in 2008 by Detroit

The Good: When it comes to playmaking skills, Nyquist is your classic "eyes in the back of his head" player. One scouting director describes him as a "very, very clever player who is always a threat." His puck skills are near that same level as his hockey sense, and when you combine that with good acceleration and a fine top gear, Nyquist is able to create scoring chances in bunches.

The Bad: Nyquist's size and strength are his main weaknesses. He's behind the curve in terms of where his physical development should be at his age, and while he doesn't have a bad effort in terms of physical battles, he's not that effective and doesn't project to have much value in that area.

Projection: He could be a below-average top line winger.

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3. Calle Jarnkrok, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 09/25/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 50 GP, 16 G, 39 P, 19:05 ATOI (Brynas-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 51st overall in 2010 by Detroit

The Good: Jarnkrok is an immensely talented puck possession player who bleeds offensive upside. Scouts regularly praise his hockey sense, which is pushing elite level. He's an imaginative player who can dazzle as a puck distributor and he has very impressive creativity with the puck. He's not a particularly fast player, although he has a fine top gear, but he has a good shiftiness to his game in terms of push off speed and agility. Jarnkrok is a solid defensive player who can check good players as well as contribute offensively.

The Bad: Jarnkrok's main weakness is his physical game, as he's a slight player who can easily be muscled off the puck. He will attempt to play the body but is pretty ineffective at it versus pro players.

Projection: He could be a top line center.

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4. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 12/18/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 193
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 48 GP, 30 G, 68 P (Saint John-QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 35th overall in 2011 by Detroit

The Good: Jurco is an elite puck-handler with what one NHL scout describes as having "all-world hands" and he can bring people out of their seats with the display of skill he puts on. He's a smart player who can make some flashy passes and he shows good offensive zone awareness. Jurco's main issues had been his compete level and physicality, but both areas looked much better this season. He's an agile player with good edgework.

The Bad: Jurco's defense showed significant improvement, but he could still use some work in that area. His top gear could be a little better and he needs to bulk up.

Projection: His ceiling borders between a fringe top line and a very good second line winger.

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5. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 12/01/1990
Age: 21
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 76 GP, 24 G, 58 P (Grand Rapids-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2009 by Detroit

The Good: Tatar finished off a fine third AHL season, which is a rare thing to say about a 21-year-old, co-leading his AHL team in scoring. He's a very smart player whose hockey sense shines through, with his great vision as a passer, his ability to make plays under pressure, his poise with the puck, and his good reads off the puck. Tatar is an above-average puck-handler who also has an admirable on-ice work ethic. His first few steps are quality as well.

The Bad: Tatar's top gear is just okay and could be better for a smaller player. Even with his intangibles, it's hard to see Tatar as a better than below-average player physical player in the NHL.

Projection: He could be a good second line winger.

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6. Damien Brunner, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/09/1986
Age: 26
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 45 GP, 24 G, 60 P (Zug-NLA)
Acquired: Free agent

The Good: Brunner signed with Detroit after leading the Swiss pro league in scoring in the regular season and playoffs. He's a plus puck-handler who one scout describes as "a dog on a bone" with the puck as he's got great hand-eye coordination, good balance, and tends to keep control of the puck when checked. He's a well-rounded skater with nice edgework and a good top gear.

The Bad: Brunner's physical game will be the major question mark as he tries to make the jump into the NHL. He's certainly undersized and some scouts are skeptical if he'll be able to handle the NHL physical game. The significant jump in quality of competition is also an issue.

Projection: He could be an average second line winger.

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7. Adam Almqvist, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 02/27/1991
Age: 21
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 174
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 42 GP, 3 G, 11 P, 19:26 ATOI (HV71-SEL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 210th overall in 2009 by Detroit

The Good: Almqvist has an impressive hockey brain as scouts say his hockey sense is clearly at a level that will provide value in the NHL. His puck-moving is very good, but even as a smaller player, he provides defensive value because of his aware positioning and good gap control. Almqvist has good hands and can make plays on the power play, but his skill isn't at the same level as his hockey sense.

The Bad: Almqvist is small and needs to gain a ton of strength. It's questionable how effective he'll be when battling in the corners or jostling for room in the crease. His skating is average, but he's a tad slower than most NHLers his size.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defender.

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8. Riley Sheahan, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 12/07/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 202
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 37 GP, 9 G, 25 P (Univ. of Notre Dame-CCHA)
Acquired: First round, 21st overall in 2010 by Detroit

The Good: Sheahan is a skilled centerman who at times can flash impressive upside. He's certainly an above-average puck possession talent between his hands and his hockey sense. Sheahan's best offensive skill is his vision, but he certainly has some individual creativity to go along with a big shot. He's filled out into his frame well, helping him in the physical game. Sheahan shows a committed and aware defensive game, exhibiting significant value in his team's end of the rink.

The Bad: Sheahan just doesn't produce up to his talent level. In some games, he looks great, receiving glowing reports from scouts, but then you look at his box score and he barely produced over half a point per game. He shows good defensive work ethic, but his offensive consistency is his major obstacle to producing significant value. Sheahan's skating is also barely average with a sluggish first few steps.

Projection: He could be a #2 center, but a good #3 seems more likely for now.

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9. Xavier Ouellet, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 07/29/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 63 GP, 21 G, 60 P (Blainville-Boisbriand-QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 48th overall in 2011 by Detroit

The Good: Ouellet had a great season, being leaned on to log 30 minutes on a nightly basis and receiving QMJHL First Team All-Star honors. One scout said that he "just always makes smart plays and plays with great composure." His hockey sense is great and his skill as a puck-mover drives a lot of his value. Ouellet has the skill to make plays from the blue line and is a pretty effective power play QB. He can defend at a solid level, showing a good pokecheck and fine positioning, and he generally keeps the play in front of him and away from the high percentage area.

The Bad: Despite his 6'1'', 190-pound listing, Ouellet's size may be slightly overstated. His physical game isn't all the best and he needs to continue to bulk up. His mobility is okay, but his top gear could be better.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defender.

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10. Teemu Pulkkinen, Right Wing
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 01/02/1992
Age: 20
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 55 GP, 16 G, 37 P, 15:48 ATOI (Jokerit-SM-Liiga)
Acquired: Fourth round, 111st overall in 2010 by Detroit

The Good: Pulkkinen is a very skilled winger, regularly showing plus puck possession abilities, and he can make some very flashy plays. His best skill is his shot, which is clearly elite, as he can launch absolute bombs from the point and is regularly looked to as the trigger man on the power play. He certainly has good vision and playmaking skills, too, but his calling card is his shot.

The Bad: Pulkkinen is a small player who projects as a fringe physical player. His skating is below average as he has an awkward stride that is knock-kneed. He also tends to try and overdo it on offense and will force plays at times.

Projection: He could be a second line winger.

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The Next Five

11. Martin Frk, Right Wing: Frk is a pretty skilled player with an elite shot and a fine physical game. Frk's season got derailed by a concussion, but a player formerly touted as a potential top-15 pick showed flashes of his old form at the end of the season.

12. Ryan Sproul, Defense: Tools, tools, tools are what you get with Sproul. He's 6'3'', with above-average skating and puck skills and a tremendous shot, but while his defense is coming along, his game still needs quite a bit of rounding out.

13. Marek Tvrdon, Left Wing: After being injured most of last year, Tvrdon led all WHL rookies in scoring. Tvrdon has nice size and above-average hands but needs to work on his skating.

14. Alexei Marchenko, Defense: Marchenko has average or better skills across the board, but has had health issues in his career. He has the potential to be a top prospect if he can get over that hill.

15. Mattias Backman, Defense: Backman is not a flashy offensive player, but he's got nice mobility and impressive two-way hockey sense.

The Sleeper: Rasmus Bodin, Left Wing

Raw as hell, but he's 6'6'' and 207 pounds, and skates at a top level. He played in Sweden's tier-3 league last year, and will play in Sweden's top junior league next season. Bodin played wing last season, although I've heard a scout say he projects as a defenseman.

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Detroit Red Wings Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Brendan Smith, Defense
2. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
3. Calle Jarnkrok, Center
4. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
5. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
6. Damien Brunner, Right Wing
7. Adam Almqvist, Defense
8. Riley Sheahan, Center
9. Xaiver Ouellet, Defense
10.Teemu Pulkkinen, Right Wing

Detroit had no regulars last season that were within the age or games played thresholds set.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects (09/04)
<< Previous Column
Top 10 Prospects (09/04)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects (09/10)
Next Article >>
Summer Skate (09/08)

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