The Red Wings are arguably the best drafting team ever. They always seem to find some kind of NHL talent in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. Players like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were selected in the 7th and 6th rounds, respectively. They selected a Swedish defenseman in the 3rd round of the 1989 draft who would go on to be a cornerstone of their franchise and one of the best defensemen to ever play. His name: Nicklas Lidstrom. Detroit was struck with the injury bug numerous times this season and coach Mike Babcock was forced to essentially play with Detroit’s AHL team for the majority of the season. They ended up surprising many fans by making the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive season and it all had to do with how they drafted. Here’s a look at the top five prospects for the Detroit Red Wings.
- Skaters can not have played more than 42 games.
- Goalies can not have played more than 25 games.
5. Dylan Larkin – NCAA – Michigan Wolverines – C/LW
The 15th overall pick by the Red Wings in 2014, Dylan Larkin was on their draft board for quite some time. Having played with the USNTDP in Detroit’s backyard of Ann Arbor, Larkin really grew as a player in his two seasons with Team USA. The two-way center has superb hockey IQ and vision which bodes well for him when he’s setting up his teammates. He also has strong puck pursuit and crashes the net hard. Larkin also developed the defensive aspects of his game knowing where the play will be and positioning himself in a way to be able to make a quick transition. He’ll be playing for the Wolverines at the University of Michigan for the next few years where he will have to get a stronger and add some grittiness.
4. Andreas Athanasiou – AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins – C/LW
At 6’2″, Andreas Athanasiou is one of the fastest prospects in the game. Athanasiou fools opponents with his smooth maneuvering and stickwork. Prashanth Iyer is a THW writer who has followed the former 4th rounder quite a bit and had this to say about his game:
“Andreas Athanasiou closed the 2013-14 season with a bang, scoring 41 goals and 71 points in his final 45 games to finish tied for 5th in OHL scoring (66GP – 49G – 46A – 95PTS). Athanasiou is decently sized at 6’2″, 200 lbs, but his real asset is his speed. The Red Wings director of player development noted that he hasn’t seen a better skater this season in the OHL. Wings fans should look forward to seeing this kid play.”
3. Petr Mrazek – AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins – G
Petr Mrazek burst on the scene thanks to a phenomenal World Junior Championship in 2011-12. He led the way for the Czech Republic winning a bronze medal and being named the WJC’s Best Goaltender. The following season he took over the starting role for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL and secured a Calder Cup Championship. He’s quickly becoming one of the most talked about goalie prospects thanks to his numbers in the AHL and NHL. One more season starting for the Griffins will help him take over the backup role to Jimmy Howard in Detroit.
2. Tomas Jurco – AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins – RW/LW
The Slovak star blew fans away from his fancy stick tricks on Youtube. Tomas Jurco is a naturally gifted winger with mesmerizing puck control, a howitzer of a shot, and agile skating. He won the Memorial Cup as a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs and was a rookie in the AHL last season. Last year he was plagued by inconsistency issues, but fought through them and was a point-per-game player this year with the Griffins. He’s in good company as Grand Rapids has been able to promote many budding stars to the NHL like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist. It’ll be a matter of time before Jurco follows suit.
1. Anthony Mantha – AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins – RW/LW
Size, strength, and goal scoring prowess is what sets Anthony Mantha apart from everyone else. He, too, struggled with inconsistency during his draft year, but the Red Wings decided to take a gamble with him at 20th overall in 2013. The decision has paid off and Mantha went on a goal scoring marathon with the Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL netting 57 goals in 57 games. The 6’5″ winger skates well and his size allows him to add extra power to his already lethal shot. Mantha might be fighting for a spot in the NHL during camp, but a year in the AHL will definitely go a long way in reaching his potential.