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August 29, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Detroit Red Wings

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Detroit Red Wings Top 10 Prospects

1. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
2. Calle Jarnkrok, Center
3. Danny DeKeyser, Defense
4. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
5. Anthony Mantha, Left Wing
6. Xavier Ouellet, Defense
7. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
8. Mattias Backman, Defense
9. Martin Frk, Right Wing
10. Ryan Sproul, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 7th

System Overview

Detroit does not have a star prospect, but their depth of quality prospects is high end. Zach Nastasiuk, who I ranked 64th at the draft, slotted just outside Detroit's top 15, as did Alexei Marchenko. Both players would be top-10 prospects in some systems. Petr Mrazek is a top goalie prospect as well.

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1. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 09/01/1989
Age: 23
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 23 G, 60 P (Grand Rapids, AHL) / 22 GP, 3 G, 6 P (Detroit, NHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 121st overall in 2008 by Detroit

Year in Review: Nyquist was one of the best players in the AHL. During the NHL regular season, he was below average, but he stepped up his game in the playoffs.

The Good: Nyquist is an exceptionally gifted player with the puck, and he can consistently make top-level plays. His puck skills are high end, and so is his hockey sense, as his ability to see the ice and make difficult feeds is very impressive. Nyquist anticipates lanes opening well, and he can be dangerous on the man advantage when setting up along the wall. He also has above-average speed, with a good first step.

The Bad: Nyquist's physical game is fringe, as he is somewhat small, and he will not really put guys through the wall. His defense still is not the best, either.

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

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2. Calle Jarnkok, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 09/25/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 53 GP, 13 G, 42 P (Brynas, SHL)
Acquired: Second round, 51st overall in 2010 by Detroit

Year in Review: Jarnkrok was one of the top young players in Sweden, leading Brynas in scoring and logging a ton of two-way minutes.

The Good: Jarnkrok is a very gifted offensive player who scouts regularly praise for his top-end hockey sense and high skill level. He is a very creative player who can make defenders miss and set up scoring chances with consistency, He has gotten quicker, with a decent-to-solid top gear, and good overall 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 is a slight player who can easily be muscled off the puck. How he develops his strength and handles North American physicality will be the major test for his game.

Projection: He could be an decent top line forward.

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3. Danny DeKeyser, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/07/1990
Age: 23
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 35 GP, 2 G, 15 P (Western Michigan, NCAA) / 11 GP, 0 G, 1 P (Detroit, NHL)
Acquired: College free agent

Year in Review: DeKeyser was the top college free agent, the best Defensive Defenseman in the CCHA for the second straight year, and a second-team All American. He was merely average in his brief stint in the NHL.

The Good: DeKeyser has high-end hockey sense, good, if not great mobility, and a big frame that he is not afraid to use. Given how well he processes the game, how many defensive stops he makes, the low amount of errors he commits, and where he is in his physical development, DeKeyser projects to be a very good defensive player who logs tough minutes and kills penalties well.

The Bad: DeKeyser does not have a glaring weakness, While he does have average offensive ability as a puck mover, he is not really a standout in that aspect of the game.

Projection: He could be a number three defenseman.

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4. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 12/01/1990
Age: 22
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 60 GP, 23 G, 49 P (Grand Rapids, AHL) / 18 GP, 4 G, 7 P (Detroit, NHL)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2009 by Detroit

Year in Review: Tatar was quality in the AHL during the season, but he really elevated his game towards the latter part of the year, especially during the postseason, where he was named MVP of the AHL playoffs.

The Good: Tatar has a great mind for the game, as his creativity and vision are very impressive. Tatar can play at a quick pace, make good decisions, and generate a fair number of scoring chances. His best highlights come from his passes. His skating picked up this season, and it is now arguably a strength in terms of his first few steps and speed. Tatar works hard, and he will grind out battles.

The Bad: Tatar's size works against him, and it forces him to project as a below-average physical player. His defense has picked up, and he will backcheck with effort, but he could still use fine tuning in that area.

Projection: He could be a great second line winger.

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5. Anthony Mantha, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 09/16/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 67 GP, 50 G, 89 P (Val-d'Or, QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, 20th overall in 2013 by Detroit

Year in Review: Mantha had a breakout season, as he was one of the top scoring threats in the QMJHL, where he led the league in goals.

The Good: Mantha is a very good skater for a big man. He picks up speed quickly, with a certain smoothness in his skating technique. He combines that with a good skill level, and above-average offensive instincts. He can slow the game down, and he exhibits good calmness, often finding the right plays to make with the puck. He shows above-average ability as a passer. He is a top-end finisher, possessing a bullet shot. When he gets an opportunity to one-time a puck, he winds up high, delivering a lot of weight through the shot.

The Bad: He could use some work defensively, and despite his size, he is not the most physical of forwards.

Projection: He could be a good second line winger.

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6. Xavier Ouellet, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 9th
Date of birth: 07/29/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 50 GP, 10 G, 41 P (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 48th overall in 2011 by Detroit

Year in Review: Ouellet was a First-Team All Star for the second straight season in the QMJHL, and he was one of Canada's top players at the World Juniors.

The Good: Ouellet is a very smart two-way defenseman, one that scouts describe as a "heady, aware player who always makes the right play." Ouellet has the skill to make plays from the blue line, and he is a pretty effective power play quarterback. He can defend well due to his positioning, stick checks, work ethic, and quick game processing. Ouellet can flash some high offensive ability as well, be it with his great passes, or a good shot.

The Bad: Despite his 6'1'', 190-pound listing, Ouellet's physical game is not the best, as he looks a little smaller, and he still needs to bulk up more, although he has gained in that area over the last 12 months. His skating is roughly average, but one NHL scout notes that his speed is still below average.

Projection: He could be a quality second pairing defenseman.

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7. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 12/28/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 74 GP, 14 G, 28 P (Grand Rapids, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 35th overall in 2011 by Detroit

Year in Review: Jurco went through some struggles in his first pro season, where he had to adjust to the AHL game, but his play picked up towards the end of the year.

The Good: Jurco is one of the top puck-handling prospects, with what one NHL scout describes as having "all-world hands." His creativity and ability to make something out of nothing is truly high end. He flashes good offensive instincts in terms of his positioning and playmaking, and he can make some really pretty passes. Jurco is also a shifty skater with good edge work.

The Bad: There are still a fair number of areas Jurco needs to work on. His physical game lacks, as he will sometimes shy off to the perimeter, and he needs strength. His overall defense is below average, and he struggles with consistency.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward.

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8. Mattias Backman, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 15th
Date of birth: 10/03/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 176
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 52 GP, 2 G, 26 P (Linkoping, SHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 146th overall in 2011 by Detroit

Year in Review: Backman took huge strides forward this season as a very good two-way player in Sweden's top league.

The Good: Backman is a good, all-around defenseman. He is an above-average skater with a smooth, technical stride, and good four-way movements. Backman's best skill is his hockey sense. He sees the ice well as a puck mover, outlets the puck efficiently, and can flash some creativity. Backman put up a lot of points this season, but he did it while logging the tough defensive minutes. His reads on defense are quite good in terms of his gaps, stick positioning, and anticipation.

The Bad: Backman is not a very flashy offensive player, as he has average to below-average puck skills. His physical game could also be improved, as he needs bulk.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman.

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9. Martin Frk, Right Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 11th
Date of birth: 10/05/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 56 GP, 35 G, 84 P (Halifax, QMJHL)
Acquired: Second round, 49th overall in 2012 by Detroit

Year in Review: Frk had a nice rebound season, where he regained some of his former top prospect status, as he was a dangerous secondary option on the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads.

The Good: Frk is a skilled goal scorer who scouts describe as a player who "loves to shoot," somewhat because of his mentality, but also because he has one of the best slapshots in the prospect world. It is a clear plus-plus skill, as he can make defenders fear for their lives when he winds up. Frk is a creative player as well, and he elevated his offensive playmaking this season. He works hard, has a strong lower body, and will win battles.

The Bad: Frk's skating and decisions have been his most notable issues, but both progressed this season to about average. At times, he can force plays too much. His defensive coverage also still needs work.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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10. Ryan Sproul, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 12th
Date of birth: 01/03/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 200
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 50 GP, 20 G, 66 P (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 55th overall in 2011 by Detroit

Year in Review: Sproul missed a portion of the season due to injury, but he still led OHL defensemen in goals and points, and he was named the OHL's Most Outstanding Defenseman. He also was named the CHL Defenseman of the Year.

The Good: Sproul is a dynamic and exciting offensive defenseman. His skating is really good, especially for a big man, as he has an explosive burst in his step. Sproul regularly shows the ability to rush the puck up the ice and make plays. He has a solid skill level, and he can create scoring chances with his hands and vision. Sproul has a cannon of a shot, one of the best in the CHL.

The Bad: Sproul's defense has been and remains a pretty significant issue. He can be overaggressive and leave his position, but even when he is back, he loses his check at times in regards to positional play. While he is not a mess on defense, and he does make stops, it is an area that still needs a lot of work.

Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman, but he has above-average risk on his projection.

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The Next Five

11. Nick Jensen, Defense: Jensen was one of the top defensemen in college. He is a really good skater, puck handler, and playmaker, whose strength and defense have continued to improve.

12. Riley Sheahan, Center: Sheahan is a skilled two-way player whose skating has continued to improve. The debate for him is whether he becomes a second or third line center.

13. Adam Almquist, Defense: Almquist is a high-end puck mover with good skill. He has gotten quicker, but he is small, and his physical game was a notable issue in the AHL.

14. Teemu Pulkkinen, Right Wing: Pulkkinen is a very talented player who can make highlight reel plays with the puck, and he has an elite shot. His skating and size work against him, and he can play a high risk game, too.

15. Andreas Athanasiou, Left Wing: Athanasiou is a really gifted player, with elite skating ability and plus hands. He had a good bounceback season, although he can still be a little selfish with the puck.

The Sleeper: Mattias Janmark-Nylen

Janmark-Nylen is a very skilled puck possessor who went under the radar as an older prospect. If he can get an extra step or two quicker, he could turn out to be a nice mid-round pick.

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Detroit Red Wings Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2013 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing
2. Calle Jarnkrok, Center
3. Danny DeKeyser, Defense
4. Tomas Tatar, Left Wing
5. Anthony Mantha, Left Wing
6. Xavier Ouellet, Defense
7. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
8. Mattias Backman, Defense
9. Martin Frk, Right Wing
10. Ryan Sproul, Defense

Detroit has no young players as NHL regulars per the listed criteria.

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 2013 (08/26)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/26)
Next Column >>
Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/02)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (09/02)

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