For the Detroit Red Wings, this summer’s Development Camp was a great event to evaluate their recent 2017 draft picks and establish how far their other prospects have come since last year’s camp. With Detroit’s full management team on hand, prospects were given a stage to impress their employers and learn from some of the best staff in the NHL.
Now in rebuild mode, these camps also give fans insight into what will come down the road. It wasn’t long ago that Petr Mrazek, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou participated in the Red Wings’ Development Camp. So, who are the next prospects who will rise through the ranks and join that quartet in Motown?
Let’s take a look at Detroit’s top four prospects entering the 2017-18 season.
4. Vili Saarijarvi – D
It’s pretty impressive when an OHL defenseman is scoring at a 0.32 goals per game pace. Vili Saarijarvi did just that for the Mississauga Steelheads this past season and will attempt to repeat that performance next year as a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
His size (five-foot-ten, 165 pounds) may still be a concern, but he’s performed well in every opportunity he’s had, including this summer’s Development Camp. Regardless of size, the offense is there. In 13 World Junior Championship games for Finland, Saarijarvi put up eight points against the world’s top prospects.
Next season, Saarijarvi will likely get power play time with Grand Rapids’ potent man advantage and compete to play top-four minutes every night. Coach Todd Nelson will certainly give him the opportunity to prove he’s the dynamic offensive defenseman the Red Wings envisioned when they drafted him.
3. Filip Hronek – D
Many forget that the Red Wings were able to pick up Filip Hronek in the 2016 NHL Draft because of the Datsyuk-Chychrun-Cholowski trade. Now, the Czech defenseman is looking like he might have the highest ceiling of any of Detroit’s 2016 draft picks.
Armed with an excellent shot, slick stickhandling abilities and wheels to burn, Hronek lit up the OHL during his first year of North American hockey. His 61 points placed fourth among OHL defensemen this past season. Additionally, the blueliner’s 1.03 points per game tops that of Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev and Nicolas Hague.
After his Saginaw Spirit campaign concluded, Hronek was sent to Grand Rapids for the Griffins’ stretch run. There, he suited up for a handful of regular season games and two playoffs games – over Cholowski and Saarijarvi, no less. Next year, expect an analogous season but playing mostly for the Griffins and a few games for the Red Wings instead.
Hronek has the potential to become that coveted right-handed, offensive defenseman that Red Wings fans have been dreaming of. He may not be a true top-pairing defenseman, but certainly, a point-producing top-four blueliner when Hronek hits his prime.
Red Wings defenseman prospect Filip Hronek (No. 53 overall in '16) working a drill at development camp. pic.twitter.com/6jubWJpLmJ
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) July 7, 2017
2. Evgeny Svechnikov – RW
During the Red Wings’ Development Camp, Evgeny Svechnikov has been downright invisible. It’s as if he’s not even there.
That’s because he isn’t. Red Wings management opted to give the Russian winger the summer off so as to not wear out the first-year pro. Svechnikov is coming off a 2016-17 campaign where he played 74 games with the Griffins (51 points), two with the Red Wings (zero points), and 19 more playoff games for Grand Rapids (12 points), essentially doubling the previous season’s total for games played. During that time, Detroit had ample opportunity to see there’s a star on the horizon.
In an interview with MLive.com’s Pete J. Wallner, Svechnikov’s teammate Tyler Bertuzzi had high praise for the winger:
“He’s a really good guy in the room and his skills on the ice are next to none. I’ve been with him (on a line during the season) and he makes it really easy because of his skills.”
Perhaps both will play for the Red Wings at some point next season.
1. Michael Rasmussen – C
With Detroit’s first lottery pick in a century, the Red Wings drafted a massive center out of the WHL. Michael Rasmussen may not have been considered the ninth best player in the 2017 NHL Draft, but Detroit liked his size, scoring touch and, most notably, his character. At this summer’s Development Camp, Rasmussen impressed many with his demeanor, despite not skating in the camp scrimmage.
When fully recovered from his fractured wrist, Rasmussen will likely head back to the Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to build on an impressive draft year. Expect the center to surpass his 1.10 points per game and 0.64 goals per game pace this coming season, while continuing to refine his two-way game.
Rasmussen projects to be a power forward at the NHL level. Having him and Dylan Larkin as the speedy one-two punch down the middle for the future should give fans a reason to be optimistic. Add in Svechnikov, Anthony Mantha, plus Andreas Athanasiou, and Detroit’s future top-six could be one that’s well-rounded, fast, and containing various player types.