As part of a recent The Grind Line column, I shared my midseason prospect rankings for the Detroit Red Wings in terms of potential NHL contributions. At the top, the usuals: Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, and Michael Rasmussen.
But compared to my post-2018 NHL Draft rankings, a lot changed. In particular, a few players had nice jumps, while others dropped out entirely. So with half a season in the books, let’s take a look at the top risers and fallers from the past two Red Wings prospect rankings.
Red Wings Prospects: Risers
Christoffer Ehn – C
Summer Ranking: NR
Winter Ranking: 17
After coming over from Sweden, I expected Ehn to start in Grand Rapids as a third- or fourth-line, defensive specialist as he adapted to the North American rink size. Instead, the young center made the Red Wings out of training camp over the likes of Dominic Turgeon and Axel Holmstrom.
Ehn may not contribute much offensively but is solid in his own end. In 19 games, he’s only been on the ice for three goals against at five-on-five. Moving forward, his bottom-six role won’t change. However, Ehn will need to develop his offensive game to remain in the lineup and avoid becoming the next Joakim Andersson or Cory Emmerton.
Libor Sulak – D
Summer Ranking: 17
Winter Ranking: 13
A late bloomer, Sulak played a season in Finland’s top league before joining the Griffins for a couple of games last year. And when injuries presented the defenseman with an opportunity to join the Red Wings this fall, he did not disappoint.
Sulak’s Detroit cameo did not produce any points but it gave the Red Wings a look at an impressive skater who could patrol the blue line full-time as soon as next season. There were a few defensive gaffes, but that’s to be expected for a relatively young player adapting to the NHL’s speed. His fringe second-pairing upside has not changed, but the likelihood of Sulak reaching that potential has increased with his generally solid play so far this season.
Dennis Cholowski – D
Summer Ranking: 6
Winter Ranking: 3
Cholowski’s 2017-18 season in the WHL was impressive, but not many expected him to beat out Filip Hronek and Joe Hicketts for a spot on the Red Wings, let alone play high-impact minutes right away. Injuries to Detroit’s blue line helped, but Cholowski has not looked out of place in the NHL.
If you look at the defenseman’s trajectory from NCAA to WHL to NHL, his growth has been exponential, though not sustainable. He has the look of a top-four blueliner and could develop into a top-pairing defenseman, just give it some time. Nonetheless, Cholowski’s future is still bright in Hockeytown.
Red Wings Prospects: Fallers
Kasper Kotkansalo – D
Summer Ranking: 18
Winter Ranking: NR
It isn’t so much that Kotkansalo’s play declined since the summer, he just hasn’t done much to keep rising prospects at bay. With only four assists so far, the Boston University sophomore isn’t an offensive dynamo. Kotkansalo’s calling card is his reliability in his own end.
The defenseman still has two more seasons at Boston University before he’ll turn pro. During that time, Kotkansalo will have plenty of opportunities to round out his game and rise up in Detroit’s prospect pipeline.
Kaden Fulcher – G
Summer Ranking: 19
Winter Ranking: NR
After backstopping the Hamilton Bulldogs to a Memorial Cup appearance, Fulcher has spent the 2018-19 season splitting time with minor league veteran Pat Nagle in the ECHL. He’s only 20 years old but has fallen behind Harri Sateri and fellow undrafted free agent Patrik Rybar on Detroit’s depth chart. Additionally, Keith Petruzzelli and Filip Larsson are ahead of Fulcher in terms of NHL potential.
David Pope – LW
Summer Ranking: 15
Winter Ranking: 19
Before the 2018-19 season began, Pope was considered to be a dark horse candidate to make the Red Wings. His senior year NHLe numbers suggested that Pope could immediately make an impact as a fourth-liner.
However, the first-year professional has struggled to find a spot in the Grand Rapids’ lineup. He has only scored twice in 17 games for the Griffins and has mostly played third- and fourth-line minutes. Maybe Pope’s ascendance will take some time at the professional level, just as it did while he was playing college hockey.
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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.