Before the coronavirus outbreak put the sporting world in limbo, the Detroit Red Wings clinched last place in the NHL. With that, they’re guaranteed a top-four pick in the upcoming draft and a 18.5 percent chance of landing the first-overall selection.
However, it could be some time until we know exactly which pick the Red Wings will have. The lottery drawing was originally scheduled to take place Apr. 9, but, in all likelihood, it will be pushed back until later in the spring.
In the meantime, we can speculate about Detroit’s draft plan and do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus. It’s been discussed ad nauseum, but it’s worth repeating: Wash your hands thoroughly, practice social distancing, and work from home if you can. For additional information, the CDC is a great resource for all things coronavirus.
Now, let’s have some fun and talk about hockey, starting with the six prospects—listed alphabetically—that the Red Wings could select with their top-four pick.
- Sudbury (OHL)
- 45 GP – 32 G – 50 A – 82 PTS
A towering, powerful center, Quinton Byfield would make a fantastic one-two punch down the middle with Dylan Larkin. Though his performance at the most recent World Junior Championships underwhelmed, Byfield made up for it down the stretch with Sudbury. He has first-line center potential and could jump directly to the NHL.
“He can play with pace, he’s dangerous in tight, he can score from mid-distance with his release, he’s extremely hard to take the puck off and he’s an excellent playmaker for his size, routinely making plays through defenders that some high-skill smaller players even tend to struggle with.”The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler on Byfield (from ‘Wheeler: Midseason ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 62 prospects’ – The Athletic NHL – 2/19/20)
Wheeler did note defensive zone play and faceoffs as areas of opportunity for Byfield, but those concerns can be addressed with proper coaching.
- Left Wing/Right Wing
- Djurgardens IF (SHL)
- 35 GP – 9 G – 7 A – 16 PTS
An offensive dynamo, Alexander Holtz is one of the top scorers of this year’s draft class. His offensive zone IQ is through the roof, with the ability to be a threat on the rush, in the zone, and on the power play.
Holtz can play both wings and possesses a right-handed shot. His skating and playmaking are good, just not elite like his goal-scoring abilities. If there’s a knock on Holtz, it’s that he’s a wing and the Red Wings could use another top-two pivot rather than another a top-six winger. That being said, Holtz will be an All-Star forward in the NHL and a key contributor to the club that selects him.
- Left Wing
- Rimouski (QMJHL)
- 52 GP – 35 G – 77 A – 112 PTS
The consensus first-overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere is a cornerstone player with a higher ceiling than 2019’s top selection, Jack Hughes. He has the size, speed, awareness, and offensive skill set to play in the NHL today and would skate in Detroit’s top-six next season if the Red Wings win the lottery.
Lafreniere has been a key cog for Canada’s last two World Junior Championship teams, winning this year’s MVP award as an underager. In addition to his outstanding offensive numbers, the Quebec-native is a leader on and off the ice, captaining Rimouski this season.
There really isn’t much more that needs to be said about Lafreniere – he’s the complete package that a No. 1 pick should be.
- Right Wing
- Frolunda HC (SHL)
- 33 GP – 4 G – 6 A – 10 PTS
Don’t be fooled by the counting stats, Lucas Raymond is an offensive powerhouse. He’s a wizard with the puck and has undeniable talent in the offensive zone. Depending on the draft order, Raymond could go as high as No. 3 given his potential.
“With the puck he’s the most dangerous player in the draft, with a combination of skill, vision and overall IQ that nobody else can match from this group.”The Athletic’s Corey Pronman on Raymond (from ‘Pronman: Ranking the 2020 NHL Draft top prospects at midseason’ – The Athletic NHL – 1/29/20)
Pronman did note that Raymond isn’t the most fleet of foot. He’ll need to work on his skating to be a consistently dangerous NHLer. However, the elite offensive tools are there.
- Ottawa (OHL)
- 56 GP – 39 G – 81 A – 120 PTS
Skating for a strong Ottawa 67’s team, Marco Rossi has franchise center written all over him. Don’t discount his smaller stature – Rossi can hold his own against just about anyone in the OHL. And while he can score in an abundance, the Austria-native is a well-rounded center who is counted on in all facets of the game. Plus, he has the right mindset for his development.
“He is obsessed with getting better. Some guys are interested in getting better, he’s obsessed. … You hear this sort of stuff about Sidney Crosby or Shea Weber when they were juniors, it’s almost like a disorder, the striving to get better. I see the same thing in Marco, nothing’s going to stop him.”Ottawa 67’s general manager James Boyd on Rossi (from ‘Wheeler: Midseason ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 62 prospects’ – The Athletic NHL – 2/19/20)
Steve Yzerman wants to build a contending organization full of high-character players. Rossi has quality character – and then some. Combined with Larkin and Moritz Seider, the Red Wings could have an impressive array of leaders to build around.
- Mannheim (DEL)
- 41 GP – 7 G – 27 A – 34 PTS
Capable of playing down the middle or on the wing, Tim Stutzle is an elite skater and playmaker. In fact, he may have the best vision of this year’s draft class. Basically, if you want a center who can drive play, attack with speed through the neutral zone, and create space for his wingers, then Stutzle is your guy.
Stutzle played mostly on the wing this season for Mannheim, but projects to be an NHL center down the road. If the Red Wings end up drafting him, they could break him in on the wing like they did with Larkin and Michael Rasmussen previously.
It should be noted that the Red Wings scouted Moritz Seider heavily last season, especially in international showcases. Stutzle played in those tournaments alongside him. Yzerman also took in a few of Stutzle’s international and DEL games this year, so Detroit’s management team should be very familiar with the German forward’s game by now.
Which Prospects Make Sense for the Red Wings?
Based on my viewings of these players and observations from the scouting community, here is how I would rank these six prospects:
- Alexis Lafreniere
- Quinton Byfield
- Tim Stutzle
- Marco Rossi
- Lucas Raymond
- Alexander Holtz
Even if the Red Wings miss out on the consensus top pick, they can still come away with an excellent consolation prize. The upcoming draft has a deep pool of talent available, especially at the top.