With the rebuilding process underway, the Detroit Red Wings will look build for the future rather than reload for a deep playoff run. While tanking is not exactly the plan, the Red Wings hope to open Little Caesars Arena with a young, competitive team that will give fans optimism for what’s to come.
During the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, Detroit moved its pending unrestricted free agents—Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott—plus Tomas Jurco to stockpile draft picks and truly kick off the rebuild. Some of those acquired picks were used in June to select the next crop of Red Wings who may help the team contend down the road. For now, those selections join a promising crop of Red Wings players aged 25 and under.
In the final edition of the Red Wings’ offseason guide, we’ll take a look at Detroit’s future by reviewing its top 25 players 25-and-under plus break those players (and others) out in positional rankings.
- Red Wings Grades, Part 1: Forwards
- Red Wings Grades, Part 2: Defense & Goalies
- Red Wings Grades, Part 3: Coaches & Special Teams
- Year-End Prospect Update
- Vegas Expansion Draft Preview
- Red Wings 2017 NHL Draft Primer
- Red Wings Free Agency Outlook
Top 25 Under-25 Rankings
There’s hope on the horizon for Red Wings fans. These 25 players all aged 25 and under represent the future of Hockeytown.
|Rank||Player||Pos||2016-17 Stats & Team|
|1||Anthony Mantha||LW||60 GP – 17 G – 19 A – 36 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|2||Dylan Larkin||C||80 GP – 17 G – 15 A – 32 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|3||Michael Rasmussen||C||50 GP – 32 G – 23 A – 55 PTS (Tri-City/WHL)|
|4||Andreas Athanasiou||LW||64 GP – 18 G – 11 A – 29 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|5||Petr Mrazek||G||50 GP – 3.04 GAA – .901 SV% (Detroit/NHL)|
|6||Evgeny Svechnikov||RW||74 GP – 20 G – 31 A – 51 PTS (Grand Rapids/AHL)|
|7||Filip Hronek||D||59 GP – 14 G – 47 A – 61 PTS (Saginaw/OHL)|
|8||Vili Saarijarvi||D||34 GP – 11 G – 20 A – 31 PTS (Mississauga/OHL)|
|9||Dennis Cholowski||D||36 GP – 1 G – 11 A – 12 PTS (St. Cloud State/NCAA)|
|10||Tyler Bertuzzi||LW||48 GP – 12 G – 25 A – 37 PTS (Grand Rapids/AHL)|
|11||Gustav Lindstrom||D||48 GP – 2 G – 7 A – 9 PTS (Almtuna/Swe-1)|
|12||Givani Smith||RW||64 GP – 26 G – 18 A – 44 PTS (Guelph/OHL)|
|13||Keith Petruzzelli||G||35 GP – 2.40 GAA – .919 SV% (Muskegon/USHL)|
|14||Riley Sheahan||C||80 GP – 2 G – 11 A – 13 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|15||Xavier Ouellet||D||66 GP – 3 G – 9 A – 12 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|16||Kasper Kotkansalo||D||47 GP – 1 G – 11 A – 12 PTS (Sioux Falls/USHL)|
|17||Joe Hicketts||D||73 GP – 7 G – 27 A – 34 PTS (Grand Rapids/AHL)|
|18||Axel Holmstrom||C||16 GP – 1 G – 1 A – 2 PTS (Skelleftea AIK/SweHL)|
|19||Lane Zablocki||RW||64 GP – 28 G – 26 A – 44 PTS (Red Deer/WHL)|
|20||Martin Frk||RW||65 GP – 27 G – 23 A – 50 PTS (Grand Rapids/AHL)|
|21||Jordan Sambrook||D||61 GP – 15 G – 25 A – 40 PTS (Erie/OHL)|
|22||Ryan Sproul||D||27 GP – 1 G – 6 A – 7 PTS (Detroit/NHL)|
|23||Zach Gallant||C||60 GP – 21 G – 26 A – 47 PTS (Peterborough/OHL)|
|24||Chase Pearson||C||36 GP – 14 G – 8 A – 22 PTS (Maine/NCAA)|
|25||Libor Sulak||D||54 GP – 10 G – 18 A – 28 PTS (Znojmo Orli HC/Austria)|
Before playing a game at any level as a member of the Red Wings organization, six players taken in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft—Rasmussen, Lindstrom, Petruzzelli, Kotkansalo, Zablocki, and Gallant—cracked the top 25. Despite reaching on Rasmussen in the first round, Detroit came away from their first “Rebuilding Era” draft with a nice haul that can help down the road.
Several of those drafted this spring will continue their careers with NCAA programs next season. Kotkansalo will head to Boston University to play for the Terriers. Petruzzelli will tend the twine for the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Finally, over-age center Jack Adams is set to join Union College in the fall. Alternatively, 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski left his NCAA program to sign an entry-level deal with Detroit and will likely play for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL next season.
In addition to the most recent additions to the organization, there are a few intriguing players to watch as the prospects tournament and training camp approach.
Once again, Bertuzzi impressed during the AHL playoffs, becoming the Grand Rapids Griffins’ all-time playoff goals leader en route to the Calder Cup championship. Bertuzzi will be given the chance to make the Red Wings in the fall, but would not require waivers if he were to be sent down. If he sticks, Bertuzzi’s energy and goal-scoring ability will be valuable adds to Detroit’s bottom-six forward group.
The recently re-signed Frk will have two possible outcomes this fall: either he makes the Red Wings out of camp or he likely gets claimed off waivers again. His right-handed shot and lethal release are appealing, but the same could have been said about Teemu Pulkkinen. It’s up to Frk whether he sticks or not.
Next summer, Ken Holland will need to sign Mantha, Larkin, Mrazek, Sheahan, Frk, and Sproul to new NHL deals – some of which will be large raises from their current contracts. For Mantha and Larkin especially, their upcoming performances during the 2017-18 season could mean the difference in millions of dollars in lifetime earnings. Stay tuned for a couple of expensive bridge deals for those two and long-term contracts for Mrazek and Sheahan if they can rebound from respectively awful 2016-17 seasons.
Chances are, both Hronek and Saarijarvi will play for Grand Rapids full-time next season. They’ll have to compete with Hicketts, Robbie Russo, Dan Renouf, Dylan McIlrath, Brian Lashoff, and others for playing time with the Griffins. Hronek had a cup of coffee with the team toward the end of the 2016-17 season and in the playoffs, but how will he fare across an entire professional season? Will he and Saarijarvi get power play time on a man advantage that often utilized five forwards? Keep an eye on Dennis Cholowski too – he’ll either play in Grand Rapids or Prince George of the WHL next year.
When viewing Detroit’s 25-and-under depth chart by position, the organization has certainly improved in areas—most notably, defense—but there are just not enough elite players in the system yet.
|Anthony Mantha||Dylan Larkin||Evgeny Svechnikov|
|Andreas Athanasiou||Michael Rasmussen||Givani Smith|
|Tyler Bertuzzi||Axel Holmstrom||Lane Zablocki|
|Dylan Sadowy||Zach Gallant||Martin Frk|
|Mattias Elfstrom||Chase Pearson||Zach Nastasiuk|
|Dennis Cholowski||Filip Hronek||Petr Mrazek|
|Xavier Ouellet||Vili Saarijarvi||Keith Petruzzelli|
|Kasper Kotkansalo||Gustav Lindstrom||Jared Coreau|
|Joe Hicketts||Jordan Sambrook||Matej Machovsky|
|Libor Sulak||Ryan Sproul||Joren van Pottelberghe|
On the blue line and in net, the Red Wings made significant upgrades since their prospects were last ranked over the winter. Adding Kotkansalo, Sulak, Lindstrom, Petruzzelli, and Machovsky, along with other 2017 draft picks, gives Detroit a solid defensive foundation. Up front, however, there is still much to be desired.
With no true superstars apart from maybe Mantha, the next tier down isn’t terribly deep. Beyond, Larkin, Athanasiou, Rasmussen, and Svechnikov, Detroit could use a few more forwards with top-six potential. Perhaps they’ll upgrade their pipeline at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline if things don’t work out next season.
- Red Wings Innovating with Undrafted Free Agents
- Detroit Red Wings Top 4 Prospects 2017
- Up Next for the Red Wings: Moving a Goalie
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.