The dust has settled following the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and teams are now preparing to move on to training camp. For the Detroit Red Wings’ selections, the upcoming tournament and camp season will determine where they land in the organization. Among the already well-known names of Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, are several promising and bright stars.
33rd Overall Selection Jonatan Berggren
We can all appreciate a goal-scorer, and that’s exactly what Jonatan Berggren is. He’s also a Swede, which the Red Wings have had great fortune with in recent years. Jonatan’s 2017-18 season was one few junior skaters can boast. Playing the primary part of the season with Skelleftea AIK J20, he tallied 57 regular season points. Additionally, he earned 10 points during the World Junior Championship and 23 while playing with Sweden U18 (all). Sportsnet nicknamed him a “highlight factory,” and they’re not wrong. Berggren is an excellent skater and has very mature ice sense. He gets to the net and gets it done.
Where does he fit? Well, given time for development, because that’s just how these things work, Berggren won’t be waiting long for a roster spot. The Red Wings need scorers, they need guys who can make those split-second decisions without missing a beat. Berggren has that.
36th Overall Selection: Jared McIsaac
Chosen 36th overall, Jared McIsaac gives hope to the defensive future of the Red Wings. The organization has a plethora of talent ready to go in Grand Rapids, but McIsaac is insurance. He impressed during the Red Wings Development Camp and proved to be as good on the ice as he was on paper. Grand Rapids Griffins Head Coach, Ben Simon, was pleasantly surprised by his agility. He told the Detroit News, “That was one thing I noticed with him: Phenomenal footwork.” Playing with the Halifax Mooseheads last season, McIsaac hit a staggering 47 points. Not too shabby for a defenseman.
Our McIsaac insurance plan gives him plenty of time to develop, as he is likely heading back to the Mooseheads for another season, and time for the existing defenseman to get their chance. With guys like Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts get ready to potentially make the jump, there will be a void needing to be filled and who better than the fancy footwork of McIsaac?
67th Overall Selection: Alec Regula
Everyone has probably heard the story about how Alec Regula is the former team dentist’s son. That’s cool, but have you seen him play hockey? Adding another defenseman was a smart move by the Red Wings. Though he’s not a flashy point producer like McIsaac, Regula brings a different type of game — size. He’s over six feet tall which is handy when trying to keep guys out of your zone.
The Wings needs some size. The league as a whole seems to be on the shorter side of things, but having someone who is not only big but can also skate proficiently is a huge asset down the road. Players are shorter now, but given a few seasons, they’ll be right back up to about Chara-size. Regula can play an offensive game as well, which is a necessity these days.
81st Overall Selection: Seth Barton
The Red Wings continued their d-man shopping spree with Seth Barton. Barton is somewhere between Regula and McIsaac. He’s tall and can score. He’s not as big as Regula and not as much of a scorer as McIsaac, but Barton has immense potential. He will benefit the Red Wings in a different way than most would immediately assume.
He will give them time. He is a University of Massachusetts-Lowell commit which means the Red Wings have up to four seasons to assess him. Similar to what they did with David Pope, Barton will likely be given some key areas of improvement. Depending on his ability to execute these tasks, the Red Wings can decide if he’ll be a good fit long-term. There’s incentive for both sides, but in such a case, the team will benefit more.
84th Overall Selection: Jesper Eliasson
Let’s be honest, the Red Wings goaltending situation has been a bit disheartening in recent seasons. Jimmy Howard is advancing in years, Mrazek was sent packing and the only good news was Jonathan Bernier joining the team. Jesper Eliasson shows much-needed promise. He plays a sharp and precise game. He’s got great reflexes and plenty of room for growth. Eliasson finished the 2017-18 season with a 2.30 goals against average on the Swedish international circuit.
The Red Wings, like any other team in the league, need to stack their goaltending. Eliasson shows confidence and has size on his size. He will remain in Sweden this coming season, which is a fantastic opportunity to continue to develop without getting lost in the US-circuit.
98th Overall Selection: Ryan O’Reilly
The Red Wings selected Ryan O’Reilly in the fourth round. O’Reilly is a product of the USHL, which is a league few watch but many should. Playing with the Madison Captiols, O’Reilly tallied 34 points in 45 games. I had the pleasure of watching him a handful of times and can see why he caught Detroit’s eye. He has power and exceptional handling skills.
As I’ve said before, the Red Wings need scorers. O’Reilly will have one more season with the USHL, which will give him further development in the elite league. From there, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, “He will attend the University of Denver, where he’ll be joined by Red Wings goaltending prospect Filip Larsson.” From there, just as with Seth Barton, Detroit will be given time to decide.
160th Overall Selection: Victor Brattstrom
Victor Brattstrom is a unique case. He’s older than the others — 21 at the time of the draft and a massive figure in the net. He’s six and a half feet tall off skates and knows how to use it. Playing with the Swedish Timrå IK, he tallied 1.93 goals against in 15 games during the 2017-18 season and 2.29 during 31 games with Timra IK J20 the season previous.
Brattstrom is consistent. Each season he maintains or improves his numbers, which is a highly encouraging sign. At his age, he could very well be ready sooner rather than later. He has advanced reflexes and is at the prime in terms of age. If he doesn’t get lost in the developmental maze, Brattstrom would be a good fit at the AHL level and very soon after, the NHL level.
191st Overall Selection: Otto Kivenmaki
Otto Kivenmaki is against the world given his short stature. As a centerman, he’s got a big slot to fill. However, his lack of height did not deter the Red Wings from making him their final selection. His production is what captivated their attention, averaging a point a game in the 2017-18 season in his homeland of Finland.
Detroit has a place for skaters of all sizes, the bigger the better, yes. However, guys like Kivenmaki have a place as well. With his vivacity and time, Shawn Horcoff, Director of Player Development, is confident he’ll be able to rise to the challenge, “Through maturity and time, that’s going to come. He’s a guy who has elite skill and talent, and you can see it. It’s just going to take a year or two to put that weight on.”
How does he fit? Well, in the center obviously. Beyond that, Kivenmaki has a fire that typically accompanies players on the shorter side. Detroit could use some youthful spunk and Otto’s style of play would be a healthy addition to an aging team.
Prospects Making Detroit’s Future Bright
Everyone knows who Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno are at this point. By no means am I diminishing their importance or future impact on the team. There are others, however, that will shape the dynamic of the team and the league as a whole. The Red Wings made some very smart future moves in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Heading into the NHL Prospect Tournament and Training Camp in the coming weeks, these young men will get the chance to further prove their worth. Looking ahead, Detroit made very wise moves and the fans can rest at ease knowing the development plan is so far, creating a very bright future.
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.