For the Detroit Red Wings, Friday’s round 1 of the 2012 NHL Draft came and went as expected, without a sound. After trading away their 19th overall pick to acquire defenseman Kyle Quincey from the Lightning in February, the team was left waiting until Saturday’s 2nd through 7th rounds to make their first choice. Pick #49 would be that selection, and it came just 20 minutes into day 2’s festivities.
Frk (pronounced Firk) was almost unanimously slated as a 2nd round pick (20th Central Scouting, 32nd TSN, 42nd International Scouting, 45th The Hockey News), a stark contrast from the top 10 preliminary ranking he held just a year ago. The reason for the ranking drop? As Matthew Wuest tells us, Frk had a rough season.
“It’s not what he hoped for when he arrived in Halifax last August in the best shape of his life, but after suffering a concussion a week later and missing the first three months of the season, his relatively high ranking is a testament to his talent after a season of ups and downs.
‘He got back to the same level he was in training camp but (by then) the level of the game was higher and he never could grow with that and keep the pace,’ said Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme. ‘He was always catching, trying to get back … That’s why I think he had ups and downs.’
The six-foot, 198-pound Czech winger had just one point in his first nine games after making his season debut on Dec. 9. Then he piled up 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points over the final 27 games, tops on the Mooseheads during that stretch.
He slumped again in the post-season with just one goal and five assists in 13 games over the final two rounds.”
The concussion and ensuing inconsistency and conditioning questions certainly hurt Frk’s rankings. Another blow to his ranking came when he drew criticism for his decision to skip the World Juniors despite having returned to action for his QMJHL team. However, Frk’s coach believes he’ll shake off all of those questions next seasons.
“’He’s got tools — is skills, his shot, his hands, his vision, his strength on the puck,’ Ducharme said. ‘Those are NHL skills. Next year, when he starts the season with everyone else and grows with the pace of the game, the team that drafts him will see what kind of player he can become.’”
Those skills he possesses, according to TSN’s Craig Button, primarily relate to scoring:
“Martin is a goal scorer. He wants to score, is hungry to score and is that player who is lurking for the chance to score. He plays a straight ahead game and is more of a shooter. He has a good shot and can beat goaltenders with it down the wing and it’s a heavy shot. His skating is good in straight lines and he creates separation between himself and defenders. He has good balance with a low center of gravity and is hard to knock off stride. His agility is adequate but not a necessary requirement for the style of game he plays. He uses his body to push to the scoring area and hold off defenders. He recognizes openings and opportunity and with a playmaking center who can get the puck to him, Martin has the abilities to be a good goal scorer at the NHL level.”
Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman had similar things to say:
“Frk is a very skilled player who has the ability that if he pans out, to make a lot of highlight reels. He has excellent puck skills with a lot of flash to his game and looks very coordinated while handling the puck. Frk is also good at handling the puck while getting checked, driving the net or getting his stick on loose pucks. He has one of if not the best shot in the draft with a one-timer that rockets off his tape that is equivalent to the shots of elite finishers. Frk certainly has the ability to scare many defensemen and goalies during his career and he will be the kind of forward who will be a fixture on the left point on a power play because of his trigger abilities.”
Frk’s ability to put the puck in the net is undeniable and earned him a comparison to fellow Wings’ prospect Teemu Pulkkinen from RedWingsCentral. However his skating ability and defensive play have frequently been called into question.
According to THW’s own Fred Poulin, who profiled him prior to the draft, Frk has the potential to be a great steal for a team like Detroit that will take time to develop him properly.
“A typical high-risk, high reward prospect, Frk could turn out to be an early second-round steal if he is developed properly by the team that drafts him. Yet, I would not be surprised if a team like the Detroit Red Wings or the Pittsburgh Penguins draft him late in the first round and take the time to develop him correctly to leverage Frk’s potential as a great second-line winger that can produce 50 points per season in the NHL.”
When you look at plays like this, it’s easy to see why the risk could be worth it.
And the reason Frk wears #91? Red Wings legend Sergei Fedorov was his childhood idol.
Frk realizes he must improve, and the Red Wings think he’ll do just that.
“We’re excited about him, he’s one of Czech’s top players. He had a tough year last year with injuries but as an underage he was one of their top players in World Juniors in Buffalo. Last year he was injured and didn’t play in world juniors. Heavy body, very competitive, he’s got some good skills.”
From there the Red Wings decided to address their distinct need for a goaltender, using the their 3rd round 80th overall pick to select Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit.
Paterson, whose favorite NHL goaltender is Michigan’s own Ryan Miller, was ranked 3rd among North American goalies by Central Scouting, and appears excited to be heading to Detroit.
Paterson’s 2011-12 year didn’t start out on a high note. He struggled early on before finding his game late in the season and during the playoffs. As MLive’s Ansar Khan recounts, Paterson was hoping teams would look at his 2nd half more than his first.
“Paterson struggled early in the year for the Spirit before locking up the No. 1 job midway through the season.
‘My stock definitely rose in the second half of the year and especially through the playoffs,’ Paterson said. ‘I was fortunate enough that (coach Greg Gilbert) kind of leaned on me toward the end of the year, and I was pretty pleased with how I played, and I’m hoping that kind of pays off next weekend.’”
While his OHL numbers aren’t staggeringly impressive, they’re not bad either.
And Central Scouting’s Al Jensen believes he was one of the quickest goalies available this year.
“I like his quickness, his athleticism, drive and determination. He wants to get better and he is getting better. He’s most effective when he challenges. He has such strong leg strength. He’s challenged better over the second half and he has NHL quickness right now … he’s one of the quickest goalies in the draft.”
“He doesn’t rely on his reflexes alone, he challenges. He plays like (Vancouver’s Cory) Schneider with the athletic ability of (Los Angeles’ Jonathan) Quick, a little bit.”
“What I like about him is he’s athletic when he needs to be but there’s a calm demeanor to him. When he was playing you could tell his team knew he was calm, a real competitor. They played hard for him. Every time I saw him play, he’s a real good teammate from what I hear on all accounts. He’s high on our list.”
And then it was on to round 4, where the Wings used their 110th overall pick to select another OHL player and their 2nd forward, Andreas Athanasiou (pronounced ath-an-ah-see-ew) .
Balancing out the selection of a questionable skater in Frk, Athanasiou is all about speed.
“I think what really separates Andreas from other elite skaters is not just the ability to skate but the ability to skate with the puck on his stick….he moves very, very well east-west, laterally. He’s really dynamic on the rush and he creates a lot of opportunities just by taking the puck to the net.”
“You don’t see that often. His zero-to-60 speed is incredible. Flat-footed he can go from a dead stop to 60 incredibly fast. He can really pull away from defenders and at this level it means so much.”
In addition to his blistering speed, Athanasiou’s skill set includes impressive stick-handling abilities comparable to those of fellow Red Wings prospect Tomas Jurco.
Unlike Jurco however, Athanasiou’s ability to finish on opportunities and put up points has been questioned. 33 goals and 59 points in 120 games isn’t terrible, but on a loaded London Knights roster some feel he could perform better.
“After impressing scouts last summer at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Athanasiou had a disappointing statistical season for the London Knights.
He has tantalizing speed, skill, vision and creativity, but most who viewed Athanasiou are left wanting.
‘On a team like that, with all those skilled players, I would personally say he underachieved,’ said one scout.
‘He’s skilled and he’s an incredible skater, but for a kid with that many tools, not enough gets done.’
If rankings were based on skill alone, Athanasiou would be a surefire first-rounder, but his tentativeness makes him a borderline top-30 selection who could tumble to the middle of the second round.
Scouts want him to take his skills and spread to less comfortable areas of the ice. ‘He finishes far too many plays with fade-away jump shots,’ said another scout. “With his tools, if this guy wanted to drive to the net, it’s minimum a minor penalty.’
The criticism isn’t unfounded, Athanasiou himself has recognized that fact and has been working diligently to improve his offensive game.
“I need to work on my shot. I have to use it more. I have a pretty good shot but I tend to pass a little more than shoot. I get into the offensive zone and there are a lot of talented players around me, but I have to shoot the puck and get some garbage goals like that.”
“I like to pass, but I think I have to get that shot going a little more just to help me and the team out a little bit here and there.”
Along with improving how he plays with the puck, you can bet that a player on a Dale Hunter coached team is going to need to play defense, and that’s been Athanasiou’s primary focus of late.
“It’s something I’ve been working on — the importance of playing in all three zones and that’s where I’ve been working on my game the most I know coach Dale Hunter and [Jacques Beaulieu] last year taught me a lot in the defensive zone. It’s definitely improving and I work on being responsible in the defensive zone and I think it’s definitely improved my game.”
Those are aspects of his game that he’ll need to improve in order to be an effective NHL player someday. Like Frk, THW’s Carl Maloney feels that Athanasiou is a high-risk high-reward pick.
“He is a true boom or bust prospect and there will be a team who takes a chance on him, likely in the second round, based on his dynamic offensive abilities and high ceiling. They will be hoping they get a high end goal scorer with highlight reel potential and not a player who plays on the peripheral and lacks intensity at times.”
From there it was on to addressing defensive depth. The Wings used their 5th round 140th overall selection to take a 6’4” 230lb blue liner that’s already committed to Western Michigan University.
McKee appears to be more known for his fighting abilities than his on ice play.
McKee is the one in black.
It should come as no surprise then that, in 59 USHL games, McKee had 237 penalty minutes. For the math lazy that’s a smidge over 4 minutes a game. The rest of his stats aren’t all to impressive, he is a 5th round selection after all, but 19 points in 59 games isn’t too shabby for a defender.
McKee went unranked by Central Scouting, but CBC’s Darren Winkler called him“a big time draft sleeper,” crediting him with a powerful stride and a solid hitting ability. We’ll see if that pans out.
The Wings stuck with defense for their next pick, #170, selecting another American University (Clarkson) bound Canadian.
“Good-sized defenceman was ranked 176th by Central Scouting”
“He led his team in defense scoring and was fifth in the Ontario junior A ranks.”
That was with 29 points in 45 games, which earned him an OJHL 1st Team All-Prospect.
“The Toronto Lakeshore Patriots back-end was solidified all season by the addition of 17-year old rookie defenceman James De Haas. The Mississauga native led all Patriots rearguards in scoring with 10 goals, also tied for the fifth best among all OJHL defencemen, and 29 points, while finishing second among all players on the club with five power play goals. De Haas’ list of accomplishments this season include confirming an NCAA Division I scholarship to attend Clarkson University, playing for Team East at the 2011 CJHL Prospect Games, playing for the South Division All-Stars at the 2011 Central Canada Cup All-Star Challenge and being listed on NHL Central Scouting’s 2012 North American Skaters Mid-Term Rankings list, 7th round, 184th overall.”
And with that it was time for Detroit’s final pick of the day. It was pick #200, despite what the following tweet says.
Who? That was the reaction of pretty much everyone. Everyone except for RedWingsCentral that is:
“The Red Wings finally went to Europe with their last pick and took yet another Swedish sleeper, a six-foot-six forward who averaged close to a point per game and piled up 94 penalty minutes at the country’s second J-18 level last season. He’s joining the HV-71 organization next season and will get much more exposure.”
At 6’6” Bodin was the tallest of Detroit’s selections. Not surprisingly, his height plays a significant role in his game.
“A huge player with great strength and reach. Has a cannon of a shot. Works hard. Surprisingly mobile for a player of his great stature. Very raw. Project.”
As with any late round selection, he will indeed be a project, but with Detroit’s system, you never know what could happen.
“In the seventh round, he’s a good pick to roll the dice on. We seen him quite a bit. When you get to the sixth, seventh round we were looking for someone with that dimension.”
And with that, the draft was over.
In the end, the Red Wings drafted just like assistant GM Jim Nill said they would, focusing on grit and size.
“Our skill level is down, so we have to get bigger. The playoffs proved that. It’s a big man’s game.”
“The days of a team having way more skill players than other teams are over. The (salary) cap doesn’t allow it, so you have to get bigger and stronger.”
“You used to have to make a play to get the puck up the ice. Now, with no red line, you can throw the puck up the ice, tip it in and chase it. You need certain players to play that way.”
Part of that search for size and grit appears to have been a focus shift to North American players. Bodin is the only draftee not playing in the United States or Canada, and Frk is the only non-NA native.
Yet they didn’t draft incredibly large players by NHL standards either. Perhaps larger than a typical Detroit draft crop, but mostly average in size, so grit appears to have been the bigger factor.
The choice to wait until the 5th round to draft a defenseman is good sign of the confidence that Detroit has in last season’s 2nd round selections Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, and straying from the “small but skillful” forward status quo should bode well for both Detroit and the Grand Rapids Griffins, as players of multiple varieties will be entering the mix in upcoming years.
The reality is that it’s impossible to judge this draft class now, next year, or perhaps even 2 years from now. It will take time and development for each of these young prospects to blossom to their fullest potential.
Still, I have a good feeling about the selections Detroit made today, and the selections themselves appear to feel pretty good about it too.
(You can find all of the Wings prospects on Twitter here.)
Detroit has done very well in the last 2 or 3 drafts, and I don’t see this diverting from that trend at all. Perhaps I have too much faith in the system, or perhaps I’ve been sucked into the general hype, but I think the Wings did good today. They addressed every position and grabbed some potential steals. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out. For now, there’s always free agency.
If you’d like more info on each of Detroit’s prospects, I suggest you head on over to The Malik Report’s Draft Hub where you’ll find everything you could possibly want to know and more as it comes out.
I’d also suggest checking out Red Wings Central’s write ups on each pick. They’re loaded with great information.