Notes: To determine who is still deemed a “prospect,” Calder eligibility will be used. Which is, by definition: “To be eligible for the award, a player cannot have played any more than 25 games previously in any single season, nor have played in more than six games in two separate preceding seasons in any major professional league…players could only be eligible if they were 26 years old or younger by September 15 of their rookie season.”
Year in and year out it seems that all twenty-nine NHL organizations attempt to emulate the drafting success the Red Wings have experienced in the last couple of decades. The franchise has had enviable success at drafting and developing prospects who have been contributing to their team’s on ice productivity for what seems like forever. While many believe the Red Wings personnel are exceptional at drafting it is more likely that Hockeytown’s real success lies in their ability to develop their prospects properly.
Over the years, Detroit has developed homegrown talent includes valuable players such as Steve Yzerman, Bob Probert, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Federov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg among many others who contributed to the Red Wings’ success. As the reliable veterans begin to slow down, look for the next crop of baby Wings to make their transition to the big club rather flawlessly. Over the next few seasons, Motor City will be welcoming these five fresh faces as the next generation introduces their skill sets.
1. Brendan Smith
Date of Birth: February 8, 1989
Place of Birth: Mimico, Ontario, Canada
Height: 6-2 Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round (27th), 2007
Brendan Smith has the potential to take the reins from Nicklas Lidstrom as the team’s next offensive defenseman within the next few years and those are certainly big shoes to fill. As a junior playing for the Wisconsin Badgers, Smith tallied 15 goals and 52 points in only 42 games on his way to earning the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and a Hobey Baker finalist nomination. The dynamic defenseman has made good progression after finishing his first professional season with 32 points in 63 games last season for the Grand Rapid Griffins finishing fifth among AHL rookie defensemen. Smith has shown that he’s NHL ready but whether there’s room for him on Detroit’s roster to play meaningful minutes has yet to be determined. Regardless, the Red Wings have a dynamic blue-liner with great skating skills, soft hands, elite vision and the compete level to become a top-pairing defenseman in Hockeytown for many years to come.
2. Tomas Tatar
Date of Birth: December 1, 1990
Place of Birth: Ilava, Slovakia
Height: 5-11 Weight: 176 lbs
Position: Left Wing
Drafted: 2nd Round (60th), 2009
Tomas Tatar is exactly the type of prospect that the Red Wings make a habit of drafting – players who excel in all aspects of the game. The Slovakian winger is a quick skater who has the tools to become a fantastic top six player in the near future. Tatar plays the game with a tremendous amount of passion and is an extremely cerebral player who is always in the right place at the right time. Tomas is a skilled forward with a good shot, good vision and a knack of going into the hard areas of the ice to score. The Red Wings caught a sneak peak of the energetic winger’s infectious enthusiasm last season for nine games (1 goal) and there is a very good possibility he will make some cameo appearances in 2011-12 as well.
3. Gustav Nyquist
Date of Birth: September 1, 1989
Place of Birth: Malmo, Sweden
Height: 5-10 Weight: 170 lbs
Position : Left Wing/Center
Drafted: 4th Round (121st), 2008
Surprisingly, Nyquist went undrafted in his first year of NHL draft eligibility after posting a respectable 44 points in 42 games for Malmo J20 of the SuperElit League. However, the Red Wings took notice the following year and picked him off with the last pick in the fourth round as the versatile center had another good season for Malmo. Gustav Nyquist has made quite the name for himself the past three seasons playing for the Hockey East’s University of Maine Black Bears. Nyquist has led the Black Bears in scoring in all of his three seasons and was named as a Top 10 Finalist for the Hobey Baker Award the past two years (Top 3 in 2009-10). Gustav projects to be a player who can contribute as a second or third line player at the NHL level as he offers an extremely well rounded game. Nyquist excels at puck pursuit and has proven to be a very capable special team’s player as either an effective penalty killer or a set-up man with the man advantage. Look for Gustav Nyquist to join the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and forgo his final year of college.
4. Calle Jarnkrok
Date of Birth: September 25, 1991
Place of Birth: Gavle, Sweden
Height: 5-11 Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round (51st), 2010
The undersized Jarnkrok has been honing his skills with Brynas of the Elitserien league where the Red Wings want him to bulk up playing in a comfortable environment. Often compared to Zetterberg, Jarnkrok thrives when the puck is on his stick and keeps his opponents honest with both his playmaking and sniping abilities. The Red Wings drafted yet another Swede who plays the game hard every shift, every game. Jarnkrok has an extremely slight build and he will need to continue to build his strength especially after suffering a late season shoulder injury during Brynas’ playoff run. Calle Jarnkrok projects to be a top six player for the Red Wings and will become extremely valuable on the powerplay as a possible future set-up man.
5. Teemu Pulkkinen
Date of Birth: January 2, 1992
Place of Birth: Vantaa, Finland
Height: 5-11 Weight: 186 lbs
Position: Left Wing
Drafted: 4th Round (111th), 2010
Teemu Pulkkinen is a prospect that comes with more risk-reward than the Detroit Red Wings are used to but he is in the right environment to succeed. The right-hand shooting Pulkkinen has been drawing some comparisons to a future Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne for his pure sniping abilities. Playing the off-wing, Pulkkinen has shown that he has a real knack for finding the back of the net as he finished second in powerplay goals (10) last season in the Finnish SM-Liiga. Furthermore, Pulkkinen broke a SM-Liiga record almost two decades old as he became the new single-season rookie assists leader with 36 assists as he surpassed Selanne’s previous record. The youngster is coming off a strong season at the Under-20 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York where he finished with 3 goals and 9 points in 6 games leading all Finns. Despite being an average skater, Pulkkinen has an excellent ability at finding the scoring areas on the ice and his natural goal scoring ability will play a factor in his success at the next level.
Honourable Mentions: Jan Mursak (LW), Tomas Jurco (RW), Riley Sheahan (C )