Earlier this summer, we examined the Top 25 Under-25 Detroit Red Wings prospects and players. The list featured Red Wings mainstays Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek, and Dylan Larkin, as well as upcoming prospects like Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, and Dennis Cholowski.
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However, some players are not blue-chip prospects from the beginning. Some take time to develop into NHLers.
It’s a common understanding around the NHL that the Red Wings are known for finding late-round projects and developing those players into well-rounded hockey players. Recent graduates include Alexey Marchenko, Jonathan Ericsson, and of course, Pavel Datsyuk.
These three players may not be the next Datsyuk, but may gain some momentum over the next few years.
C | Chase Pearson
During the 2015 NHL Draft, the Red Wings took Chase Pearson in the fifth round (140th overall). Pearson, a six-foot-two center from Alpharetta, Georgia, had just wrapped up his first full season with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms—Kyle Connor’s USHL team.
After becoming a Hockeytown prospect, Pearson followed up his rookie USHL campaign with a solid second season. Without Connor on the team, Pearson stepped up to score 50 points in 55 games—good enough for second on the team.
This fall, Pearson is playing for the University of Maine, as he begins his collegiate career. He’s joined by fellow Red Wings prospect, Patrick Holway. Though it may be a few years until Pearson turns pro, Red Wings fans should pay attention to his progress.
2016-17 Stats: 4 GP – 2 G – 1 A – 3 PTS – 4 PIMS
D | James de Haas
As Pearson begins his first NCAA season, defenseman James de Haas is suiting up for his last. Now 22 years old, de Haas was drafted by the Red Wings in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. After playing a post-draft season in the BCHL, de Haas enrolled at Clarkson University, where he has patrolled the blue line for the past three seasons.
His six-foot-three frame and great skating ability makes him a typical Red Wings draft pick. Last season, he led Clarkson defenders with five goals and 17 points in 38 games. After Clarkson’s 2016-17 season ends, expect de Haas to join the Grand Rapids Griffins for their stretch run.
2016-17 Stats: 4 GP – 0 G – 3 A – 3 PTS – 2 PIMS
C | Julius Vahatalo
Entering his fourth season of SM-liiga, Finland’s top professional league, Julius Vahatalo could be a diamond in the rough for the Red Wings. Standing at six-foot-five, the Finnish center could make the transition to North American hockey in the next year or two.
In 49 games with TPS Turku last season, the then-20-year-old Vahatalo put up 13 points, including nine goals. On a team mostly dominated by veterans, Vahatalo was one of the few players in their early-20s to make the team.
If Vahatalo can build his skating speed, he has the skill set to make an effective transition to the AHL level. His relentless grinding and ability to keep opponents off the puck make Vahatalo a potential bottom-six NHLer.
2016-17 Stats: 3 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 PTS – 0 PIMS
Which Detroit Red Wings prospect has the best shot at making the NHL? Comment below with your opinion.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.