Here is a look at Detroit’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
A team that is rebuilding for the first time in decades will have six picks in the top 100 for the first time since 1987….uncharted territory for longtime GM Ken Holland who has earned a reputation for being able to turn late picks into gems like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
This time around if there are no gems there will be no excuses as the club will enjoy five selections in the top three rounds alone, and it couldn’t come at a better time as Detroit is in need of restocking the prospect cupboard that has thinned out in recent years with plenty of graduations and losses through trades.
There is a definite need to restock at center and defence in this draft, and since the majority of worthy prospects expected to be available at ninth overall should be forwards, Detroit will likely be looking at taking whatever talented center is at the top of their list after the first eight picks.
The main candidates to be available at nine are Michael Rasmussen, Casey Mittelstadt, Robert Thomas, Martin Necas, Elias Pettersson and perhaps Gabriel Vilardi or Cody Glass, so the odds are pretty good that Detroit will be able to add a much-needed pivot to the team. Rasmussen is the best bet to be the team’s pick if he’s available, Detroit would love to add a big center with goal-scoring talent and the Tri-City center certainly fills that need. Vilardi and Glass are likely gone and Mittelstadt’s stock is dropping, so the second-most likely center to be selected ninth overall may well be Thomas…a player who will be able to move right into the lineup within a year given his great two-way game.
It will be interesting to see what Detroit does if Kristian Vesalainen is available at ninth overall as he could end up being the best big forward in the draft, and there is always the possibility that the Wings end up with Dylan Larkin and Evgeny Svechnikov playing center, so choosing a winger is also a remote possibility. Vilardi, of course, would likely also be snapped up pretty quickly at nine even if there are questions about whether he will be a center…the club would have at least three players that could be switched back and forth between wing and center if need be at that point.
All that said, there is still a need for at least one top-four defenceman in the system, preferably one that has more size than Dennis Cholowski, Vili Saarijarvi or Filip Hronek, so if the club can move into the first round by dealing some of its extra top 90 picks to grab the likes of Cal Foote or Nic Hague in the mid 20 range, don’t be surprised to at least see an attempt by the Wings to do so if they can find a willing participant. A lot will depend on whether Las Vegas can secure some first-round picks before the expansion draft as the Knights may be more willing than most to stockpile later picks to move one of their extra first-rounders.
There is even an outside chance that Detroit has a defenceman ranked in its top ten other than Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen, but if that’s the case the only one who makes sense to be taken with their top pick based on information gathered this draft season on who they like would be Urho Vaakanainen.
If Detroit stays put at 38, Henri Jokiharju would be a splendid addition if on the board despite his lack of size as he may end up being better than both Hronek and Saarijarvi, especially on the defensive end. Pierre-Olivier Joseph is the other defence option that would bring good value if he slips to 38, but at that stage in the draft most of the players on Recrutes board are forwards, and Detroit would be happy to pick up Jaret Anderson-Dolan or Joni Ikonen, two centers with top-two upside. The other option may be to take a serious look at Michael DiPietro or Keith Petruzzelli of either goalie is still available.
With four picks between 71 and 100 Detroit will get the opportunity to add decent depth, and the Red Wings may well add another couple of defencemen and a risky center prospect with offensive potential, or a safer one with limited offensive upside but strong defensive game and size. At the end of the day…Detroit has an opportunity to relive some old draft magic and pick up some key pieces for the future that will get the team back into contention some day.