Red Wings Must Draft Defensemen In 2014 And Beyond

2014 NHL Draft

Aaron Ekblad is one defenseman the Detroit Red Wings must keep and eye on (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Defense is killing the Detroit Red Wings.

After watching video from a season as recent as 2010-2011, it becomes clear that what Detroit possessed just three years ago is what they lack now: cohesion between the defensemen and the forwards in all three zones. Detroit has a stockpile of next-generation weapons at the forward positions, some of whom have strutted their stuff in the NHL already.  Because of this, Ken Holland’s attention must shift to rebuilding Detroit’s barely average defense corps.

Scouts are underwhelmed by the 2014 NHL draft class, but so what?  Drafting quality players is a crap shoot and unanticipated contributors emerge annually in the NHL.  The defensemen below are the anticipated contributors Detroit should seek to secure this summer.

Aaron Ekblad

“Aaron is the proverbial ‘workhorse’ defenseman. Capable of playing significant minutes, he has a seemingly ability to get better the more he plays and he seems to thrive on these types of demands. Smart and capable of playing in all situations, he is also capable of dominating opponents. Defensively, offensively, skill game or physical game, Aaron can excel in all types of games. Top 2 type defenceman.” Profile from: TSNs Director of Scouting Craig Button – Sept. 18th 

Haydn Fleury

“One of the elite shutdown defenders; logs big minutes & a vital leader in RD (Red Deer).” -Nov, 2013, @ISShockey

“Fleury is a big, physical blueliner who shows good offensive ability. He’s strong and balanced on his skates, keep his head up and understands developing plays. He rubs opposing forwards out and isn’t shy to make a solid hit.” -August, 2013, Future Considerations

Anthony DeAngelo

“DeAngelo’s calling card is his puck moving ability, but he’s pretty feisty too. Not a big guy but he isn’t afraid to throw his body around.” -December, 2013, @ToddCordell 

“Offensive from blueline showing elite quickness, agility & vision as he rushes puck.” – December, 2013, @ISShockey

“DeAngelo is a smooth skating, offense-generating defenseman who has some very quick feet. He’s slippery and very creative with the puck. His offensive awareness is incredible but is easily out-muscled in his own end and needs to work on his positioning.” -August, 2013, Future Considerations

Julius Honka

“Honka is a small offensive-minded blueliner who skates very well with strong lateral movements and agility. He’s extremely elusive and hard to contain or catch. He possesses good recovery speed and quick on the transition from defense to offense.” -August, 2013Future Considerations

 

Roland McKeown

“Total package on the blueline; IQ on both sides of puck. Impressive +16 in 11 GP in Oct” – November, 2013, @ISShockey

“McKeown is a strong, do-it-all defensemen whose biggest asset is his ability to think the game and know his position. He makes strong, simple plays, has a good shot and distributes the puck effectively.” -August, 2013, Future Considerations

Sebastian Aho

“Aho is a small but skilled puck moving defenseman who can make a strong multi-zone stretch pass or who can skate the puck up ice on the attack himself. Defensively he is not afraid to play physical or block shots. Size is an ongoing concern. -November, 2013, Future Considerations

Detroit’s twenty year scoring surge took adulation away from the defensemen.  Other than Nicklas Lidstrom, defensemen in Detroit have played second fiddle to the forwards, and Lidstrom did not become a household name until the 2000s.

Defensemen have a less glamorous job than forwards.  Scoring goals is more fun than preventing them.  But if 2013-2014 has reminded Hockeytown of anything, it’s that the attack begins in the defensive zone. Detroit needs defensemen who can get into “the zone” themselves for the attack to be effective.

Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianflemingdunha

Ian Dunham
I began my career in hockey as a pre-scout for Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I have been writing about the NHL for multiple platforms since the 2007-2008 season.
Ian Dunham

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4 Comments

  1. a. The top end of the defensive prospect pool for Detroit is as strong as its forward pool. Ouellet, Marchenko, Sproul, and Jensen were all top level performers at the previous level before joining the Griffins. Almquist and Backman are also above average prospects. Babcock has already endorsed Ouellet, Marchenko, Almquist and Sproul as either NHL ready or very close to it.

    If it wasn’t for his injury thanks to Bertuzzi Jr. this summer, Jensen would probably be garnering similar acclaim. Backman (currently +23 in the SHL) and Marchenko (AHL all-star) already have multiple seasons of experience playing against men in the SHL and KHL respectively.

    The Red Wings are having some tough time on the back end but what team wouldn’t be after losing Rafalski, Lidstrom and Stuart over a three season period? DeKeyser is barely past prospect status and has looked consistently strong albeit injury prone.

    b. Beyond the guys playing at the pro level in NA and Europe, Detroit has decent albeit not spectacular depth of defenders at the junior and college levels. Ben Marshall and James De Hass are having solid starts to their season and both Mitchell Wheaton and Marc McNulty are putting up surprisingly good offensive numbers in the WHL.

    c. It’s highly doubful the Wings will have a 1st round pick higher than 14th so Ekblad (1st ISS), Fleury (8th ISS) and McKeown (11th ISS) will probably not be on the board by Detroit’s pick. DeAngelo, Aho and/or Honka may be available for Detroit but that’s it unless one of the top three drops over the back half of the season. 1/3 of these recommendations (Ekblad, Fleury) are pointless unless Detroit tanks or trades up, 1/6 (McKeown) is unlikely and half are realistic.

    d. It would have been better to discuss other defensemen that will be available in the mid to late first and second round for Detroit. Also, I’d say a top-end center might be the need for Detroit, although this isn’t necessarily the draft year for it.

    • A sound comment but almost everything you said regarding availability is contingent upon DET making the playoffs, which is not a foregone conclusion at this point. I’m optimistic about Almquist, Sproul, Marchenko and Ouellet, but it’s TBD whether or not they can transition to the NHL. Things are less murky with forwards like Nyquist, Jurco, and Tatar (as I said to the commenter below who did not like the piece at all.) Mantha’s astonishing scoring pace this season in the Q is exciting as well, and Pulkinnen and Jarnkrok have been impressive on the farm.

      So again, all of this depends on where the Wings finish the season. I think it’s safe to say that some of these dmen WILL go mid or late first round.

  2. Do you actually follow the Wings or do you just spout nonsense based on watching a couple of games. The Wings strength in the AHL and Jrs is their defensive prospects
    Xavier Ouellet
    Ryan Sproul
    Mattias Backman
    Adam Almquist
    Alexey Marchenko
    Nick Jensen
    Do some homework, the Wings have no shot at Ekblad

    • I think I’ve probably missed 10-15 wings games since 1992, so yes, I follow them.

      I’m optimistic about all the dmen you listed above, but they are not playing in DET regularly at this time. It’s TBD if they can make the transition to the NHL or not.

      Our young forwards have proven themselves a bit more.

      You are right about Ekblad but DET fans should get familiar with as many of the top dmen of the 2014 class as possible.

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