The Grind Line: Red Wings 2018 Draft Review

Unlike recent years, the Detroit Red Wings didn’t need to wait long to make their first selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. And when they did, it was an absolute slam dunk.

With the sixth-overall choice, Detroit selected left wing Filip Zadina from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. The Czech forward torched his junior league this past season with 44 goals in 57 games and looks to be the gamebreaker the Red Wings desperately need.

The Zadina selection kicked off what would become a truly fantastic draft for Ken Holland and his team. In all, 10 draft picks joined the organization:

  • No. 6 – RW Filip Zadina
  • No. 30 – C Joe Veleno
  • No. 33 – LW Jonatan Berggren
  • No. 36 – D Jared McIsaac
  • No. 67 – D Alec Regula
  • No. 81 – D Seth Barton
  • No. 84 – G Jesper Eliasson
  • No. 98 – C Ryan O’Reilly
  • No. 160 – G Victor Brattstrom
  • No. 191 – C Otto Kivenmaki

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their grades and reaction to Detroit’s 2018 draft. What picks–apart from the obvious—stood out? Which passed over players were high on our list? What picks look like great sleepers? Find out below!

Related: Red Wings’ Draft History & Tendencies

Tony Wolak: A-

I still can’t believe the Red Wings were able to draft Zadina. And Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren, and Jared McIsaac without sacrificing any draft assets. Holland definitely deserved a victory cigar following the 2018 NHL Draft.

Zadina and Veleno instantly join Detroit’s top three prospects and give the Red Wings some offensive firepower that could be on display as soon as next season. At the very least, Zadina should start next year in Hockeytown with Veleno and possibly Berggren following a season later.

Though he’s known more for his defense, I really like the McIsaac pick. His style would mesh well with someone like Filip Hronek in a first- or second-pairing role, and he has the size and speed to play against just about anyone. Add in Dennis Cholowski, Joe Hicketts, Gustav Lindstrom, Vili Saarijarvi, and Libor Sulak, and Detroit’s defensive pipeline is looking pretty good.

Jared McIsaac of the Detroit Red Wings.
How long before Jared McIsaac joins the Red Wings’ blue line? (courtesy

One player I had an eye on was Jake Wise, who dropped to the third round. He was available for the No. 67 pick, but was chosen soon after by Chicago. It would have been nice to see the Red Wings take Wise with their first third-round selection, then possibly Alec Regula at No. 81. Time will tell if that strategy would have been a wise one. (Sorry, I’m done now.)

The other Ryan O’Reilly should be a player to watch, though. He’s going to play one more year of junior hockey before enrolling in the University of Denver for the 2019-20 season, where he’ll play in front of Red Wings goaltending prospect Filip Larsson. At a minimum, it will be another three or four years before O’Reilly turns pro, so there’s plenty of time for the 6-foot-2 forward to develop.

Related: Red Wings 2018 Prospect Update

Jacob Messing: A

It has been too long since the Red Wings organization deserved a letter grade of ‘A’ in any capacity, but the 2018 NHL Entry Draft certainly changed that. Each year, a handful of teams are declared winners and losers – but this year, the deep draft class offered the chance for a few extra winners over the weekend.

Among those winners—and perhaps the biggest of the bunch—the Red Wings came away with a couple of high-quality picks that fell into their lap.

It started with right wing Zadina, a consensus top-three pick (compared to Marian Hossa and Patrick Laine), who fell to Detroit at No. 6. Zadina is an NHL-ready goal scorer who oozes confidence and brings a new element to a rebuilding team. He’s a very early candidate for the Calder Trophy.

With their second first-round pick (30th overall from the Tomas Tatar deal with Vegas), Veleno was another player who slipped much too far. It was Detroit’s gain, as Veleno brings a complete game. He’s only been knocked for being too consistent during his junior career, raising questions over his scoring ceiling. He’s a very low-risk, high-reward player poised to be an excellent middle-six center.

Joseph Veleno Red Wings
Joseph Veleno, Detroit Red Wings, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With their two early second-round picks, Holland continued to be a draft winner, nabbing a Viktor Arvidsson-type forward in Berggren and one of the top-rated defensemen left in Jared McIsaac. Holland followed them up with two more defensemen as he addressed the need to add blue-line depth.

The chance to draft what some might call “safe” players was all Detroit needed to do after some questionable picks over the past several years. In three to four years, the pivotal 2018 draft could prove to be just what turned a once great franchise back into an annual contender.

Rachel Anderson: B+

This year’s draft was an overall success for Detroit. The general reaction towards Ken Holland’s decisions was positive – which I’m sure came as a relief to the Detroit front office.

Zadina came as a surprise for Detroit, not knowing if he was going to be available at the sixth pick. There are high hopes for Zadina, and I think he will meet expectations. Many are saying he’ll be NHL-ready within a season or less, which gives the aging team something to look forward to. Along with some solid blueliners and forwards, the Wings scored big on young guys with plenty of room to grow.

Filip Zadina Red Wings
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Picking up a few Swedes won’t hurt their long-term chances either. Getting two very large goaltenders was a major bonus. The goaltending issues surrounding Detroit and the Griffins (AHL) are obvious. Jimmy Howard isn’t getting younger (or better), and the inconsistency of Jared Coreau—who will become an unrestricted free agent—in Grand Rapids was clearly an issue needing to be addressed. Getting their hands on two sizable goalies, Brattstrom and Eliasson, will add some immediate goaltending options as opposed to waiting for prospects Filip Larsson and Keith Petruzzelli.

I rated the Wings’ draft success a B+ solely based on their final pick. Detroit selected Otto Kivenmaki 191st overall, and I question that decision. He’s extremely small: 5-foot-8 and only 137 pounds. He has a few years of development ahead of him and is very fast, but his compact stature is a reason for concern. Joe Hicketts overcame his size disadvantage by being physical and having weight to back him up. Time will tell if Kivenmaki can follow suit and represent the little guys.

Overall, Detroit has quite a few very promising guys who could be NHL ready within a season or two. Buying out Xavier Ouellet frees up plenty of space for current Wings defensemen spending time in Grand Rapids to move up. As a result, some of the young blood recently acquired could be placed in Grand Rapids for early development.

Which Detroit Red Wings draft pick are you most excited about? Comment below with your choice.