Plain and simple, the Detroit Red Wings got hosed. The fact that a playoff team is going to land the first-overall choice in the 2020 NHL Draft—with the last-place Red Wings getting bumped down to fourth—is absolutely ridiculous.
There, I said it. That’s the first and only time I’m going to complain about the draft lottery. The hockey world is moving on and so are the Red Wings. Besides, the organization is still getting a great prospect at No. 4.
Now that that’s out of the way, what’s next for the Red Wings?
No Immediate Support for the Red Wings
Had the Red Wings landed the first or second picks in the draft, next season’s team would have received a boost from those selections. Both Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield are ready to play in the NHL. If you’re comparing to Detroit’s current roster, a couple more players could have pushed for roster spots as well, though there are likely better development options.
But given the impact that COVID-19 has had on the sporting world, it’s unlikely that the player Detroit selects with the fourth-overall pick will join the 2020-21 Red Wings. It’s far-fetched to believe that Tim Stutzle, Lucas Raymond, or Alexander Holtz would leave their European professional team midseason to cross the Atlantic, both from a health and readiness standpoint. The same could be said about Marco Rossi and Jamie Drysdale in juniors. A jump to the NHL—and to a bottom-five team, no less—would be too much too soon for these players.
Related: THW’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Similar Draft Spot Next Year?
It’s conceivable to think that the 2020-21 Red Wings won’t be that much different from this year’s last-place team. Think about it: They’re not going to get a boost from their 2020 first-round pick and Steve Yzerman’s preference is to avoid splashy free-agent acquisitions.
If the Red Wings don’t have a ton of turnover, they could be competing once again for the first-overall choice in the 2021 draft. Before you reach for the hard liquor, remember that the Red Wings still need another gamebreaker or two to be a true contender in this league. Another lottery pick will make the Red Wings that much deeper and be able to sustain competitiveness a little longer.
Related: Worst Trades in Red Wings History
The world—and Red Wings fans, in particular—could use some optimism right now, and I have it for you.
In 2017, the Colorado Avalanche finished last in the NHL by a wide margin – 21 points behind the second-to-last Vancouver Canucks. It was certainly a trying year for the young team. At the draft lottery, the Avalanche were jumped by three teams and wound up with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft. Their selection—Cale Makar—is arguably better and a more impactful player than the three chosen before him: Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, and Miro Heiskanen.
In addition, the Avalanche made the playoffs the very next season – without Makar. Their young players turned a corner in their development after a brutal 2016-17 campaign. And now, they’re a true Stanley Cup contender with Makar anchoring their blue line.
Why can’t the Red Wings do this next year? Sure, the sting of missing out on Lafreniere and Byfield will remain for some time, but there is promise within the organization. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Filip Zadina are going to be impact players next season. Filip Hronek is coming into his own as a top-four defenseman and Moritz Seider showed tremendous growth during his first season in North America. And while the Red Wings don’t have the top prospect pipeline in the NHL, they’re certainly up there.
It’s a long shot, but how many of you expected the Avalanche to rebound so quickly?
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.