A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
The Detroit Red Wings have done an excellent job at scouting in recent years especially when it comes to finding hidden gems with late draft picks. We all know the legendary late rounders Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, although their sleeper successgoes much deeper than that. The top class scouting of Detroit is a big reason for the club’s 24th straight playoff appearance. They always manage to be playoff contenders without re-building and their playoff streak might continue for many more years to come as the organization is stacked with high-end prospects and are full value for their lofty ranking in our top ten organization list.
- Dylan Larkin, C, Michigan (Big 10) 6-1”, 190. 15th overall, 2014
- Anthony Mantha, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-4”, 190. 20th overall, 2013
- Yevgeni Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL) 6-2”, 201. 19th overall, 2015
- Teemu Pulkkinen, LW, Grand Rapids (AHL) 5-11”, 183. 111th overall, 2010
- Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Guelph (OHL) 6-0”, 179. 58th overall, 2013
- Landon Ferraro, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-0”, 174. 32nd overall, 2009
- Axel Holmstrom, C, Skelleftea (SHL) 6-0”, 198. 196th overall, 2014
- Xavier Ouellet, D, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-1”, 190. 48th overall, 2011
- Ryan Sproul, D, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-3”, 185. 55th overall, 2011
- Joe Hicketts, D, Victoria (WHL) 5-8”, 176. UFA: Signed Sep. 24, 2014
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Alexei Marchenko, D, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-2”, 209. 205th overall, 2011
- Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-0”, 177. 110th overall, 2012
- Tom McCollum, G, Grand Rapids (AHL) 6-2”, 215. 30th overall, 2008
- Vili Saarijarvi, D, Green Bay (USHL) 5-9”, 161 73rd overall, 2015
On top of the food chain is University of Michigan product Dylan Larkin. He played his first couple of AHL games for Grand Rapids during their playoffs and scored five points in six games. Furthermore, he was invited to join Team USA at the Worlds this year in the Czech Republic and showed that he can compete against men as he had some decent games. Larkin is a typical power forward who uses his big size to protect the puck very well and is hard to knock off the puck because of a combination of size, strength and speed. He has powerful strides which lead to good top speed and is an agile skater. He is aware of his defensive responsibilities but sees his strength in the offensive zone where he likes to enter the zone with speed and then dishes out the puck. Larkin will probably start the season in the AHL but expect him to be called up in order to play his first NHL-games this season.
There are question marks about Anthony Mantha as to whether he can live up to his talent and the hype that followed his scoring exploits in the QMJHL. The Red Wings’ first round pick from 2013 spent all of last season in the AHL and had only four points in 16 playoff games. He showed some struggles to transfer his game from junior hockey to the professional ranks. He scored an incredible 120 points in his last season with the Val d’Ors Foreurs. However, the Red Wings would be well advised to show patience with Mantha as he possesses tremendous offensive upside. He is an extremely good skater with great top speed despite his towering 6-5” height. He is a pure goal scorer and likes to use his lightning quick release and powerful shooting arsenal. He likes to get involved in the offensive zone but needs to finish off plays better as he misses too many chances. While he has the offensive upside to become a dangerous goal scorer at the NHL level, he might just need some more time.
Their first round selection of this year’s draft was Yevgeni Svechnikov from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The Russian winger was a man amongst boys in the QMJHL as he has good size and is extremely hard to knock off the puck. He uses all of his big frame to protect the puck extremely well and possesses great puckhandling skills. Svechnikov has the tools to be a high-end prospect but he needs to work on his own zone game and tends to take too many long shifts at times. If he can eliminate his flaws he has the potential to become a top-six player for Detroit.
Teemu Pulkkinen had a great last AHL season but could not replicate his goal scoring abilities at the highest level. He scored only eight points in 31 games and could not fully convince the coaching staff that he was worthy of increased opportunities. He is looking to make the team on opening night and there would be a spot for him at the wing in Detroit in case he shows well at training camp. Pulkkinen is a natural goal scorer and has a nose for the net and uses his quick shot release to score. He needs to work on his own zone game and seems to avoid the dirty areas. The latter fact might be one of the primary reasons why he has not excelled yet in the NHL.
Tyler Bertuzzi took a huge step forward last season in his development. He really impressed the Grand Rapids coaching staff (Former Grand Rapids Head Coach Jeff Blashill is the new Red Wings head coach) when he joined the Griffins for their postseason and had 12 points in 14 playoff games. Bertuzzi’s style of game is that of a power forward. He likes to get involved physically and drives the net with everything he has. He could need one year in the AHL until he is ready for the big league but might play his first couple of NHL games if he continues to impress in the AHL.
Landon Ferraro has played in ten games with the Red Wings and will probably make the roster more regularly in the upcoming season. He would fit into the third or fourth line with his style of game as he plays solid in all three zones and shows a matured understanding of the game. He is a smart hockey player who does all the small things right as befitting the son of a longtime NHLer.
Axel Holmstrom could be the next European player drafted by Detroit in a lower round (7th) who turns out to be a steal. The Swedish forward had a good season with Swedish top team Skelleftea and scored 20 points. He is a good passer and likes to plant himself in front of the net where he is hard to dislodge. He will spend another season in Sweden but once leaving his home country he should be close to NHL-ready.
At the bottom of the rankings you will find three defenders in Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Joe Hicketts. Ouellet already had a stint with the Red Wings last season playing in 21 games. He is an agile skater and plays a very responsible own zone game but is also strong offensively. He plays a more positionally sound game in his own end as opposed to being a heavy hitter. Sproul is also an offensive defender and shows good size but will likely need another year in the AHL to develop his defensive game and work on his pivots. Joe Hicketts is an extremely undersized defender at only 5’8”. He has a good pass and can execute long passes which lead to breakaways. He also plays much bigger than his listed measurements, and is surprisingly solid in his own zone. Just past those three is Alexei Marchenko, who earned some ice time with the big club last time and figures to see more this time around. A right handed shooter who is a strong puck mover, Marchenko projects as a solid third pairing defender.
A player who should be watched closely but didn’t make the top ten is forward Andreas Athanasiou. He is a lightning quick skater, has soft hands and is a good stickhandler. He needs another year in the AHL to develop his game. Goaltender Tom McCollum showed decent numbers last season in the AHL as well as the NHL. He is a big and heavy goaltender and shows good rebound control. With Mrazek and Howard in the system it will be hard for McCollum to start games for Detroit next season. A final player of note is undersized Finnish blueliner Vili Saarijarvi. He was very dominant at the U18 Worlds as one of the best defenders of the tournament. He is a great puckmover and very agile skater who likes to quarterback the powerplay and lead rushes. He will spend next season in the OHL.
Between their trio of high end, highly drafted forwards in Larkin, Mantha and Svechnikov, the Red Wings appear to have the pieces in place to maintain an upper-echelon into the future and keep their record-setting postseason streak alive for a long time yet. While the system could use infusions on the blueline and between the pipes, the whole, as seen by their ability to develop players even after they have been drafted, is greater than the sum of the disparate parts.