In 2018, the Detroit Red Wings struck gold with their first two draft picks: rookie phenoms Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, players projected to be selected in the top-three and top-ten who fell into Detroit’s lap at 6th and 30th overall. With ten picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, general manager Ken Holland and co. selected five forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies. But how have these high-powered prospects stood up over the last year? Today, we’ll grade the Red Wings’ 2018 Draft picks to see how they stacked up against the rigors of a full season.
Filip Zadina – 6th Overall
Fans around the world leaped from their seats when Zadina fell to the Red Wings. The Halifax Mooseheads winger spent 2018-19 in Grand Rapids, scoring a solid 35 points in his first AHL season. He even spent a bit of time in the big leagues, scoring a goal and two assists in nine games. While he didn’t jump off the score sheet, he showed remarkable potential with his defensive responsibility and excellent goal scoring ability.
He began this season with the Griffins again as he continues to work out the facets of his game. While he hasn’t been able to score a full-time spot in the NHL just yet, it’s important to note that Zadina is just 19 years old and has plenty of time to grow into his role.
Final Grade: B
Joe Veleno – 30th Overall
Veleno was initially ranked much higher in projected drafts, but, in a surprising turn of events, he fell to the 30th pick, where the Red Wings gladly snatched him up. He spent the 2018-19 season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as the leading scorer of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, putting together a baffling 104-point season in 59 games. He started this campaign in Grand Rapids, where he’s struggled to stand out against tougher competition.
Fortunately, he’s been able to earn plenty of playing time, learning the ins and outs of a rigorous professional season as he adjusts on the fly. His overall game, coupled with his ability to stand out on the ice, may make Veleno one of the biggest steals of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Final Grade: A
Jonatan Berggren – 33rd Overall
An injury kept Berggren sidelined through the majority of the 2018-19 season. He was only able to put up three assists in 16 games before damaging his back.
Thankfully, this season has seen him return to the ice, spending time in the Swedish Hockey League and on the Sweden U20 team. He’s likely a few years away from cracking the Red Wings’ roster, as he’ll need to adjust to American ice in Grand Rapids before he can make a name for himself with the team.
Final Grade: C
Jared McIsaac – 36th Overall
Zadina’s former teammate blossomed in the 2018-19 season, wowing everyone with an impressive 62 points. While he’s typically deployed as a shutdown defenseman, last season provided a closer look at his lethal skill set and impressive awareness of both ends of the ice. It’s a wonder he wasn’t selected earlier.
He’s been recovering from a shoulder injury that put him out of commission for the last six months, though he’s likely to return soon. He could suit up in Detroit as early as the 2020-21 season.
Final Grade: A-
Alec Regula – 36th Overall
Alec Regula was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Brendan Perlini.
Final Grade: Incomplete
Seth Barton – 81st Overall
Seth Barton spent the 2018-19 season playing for UMass Lowell, skating in 31 of 34 games and putting up nine points. He just completed his freshman year and while he didn’t put up spectacular numbers, it’s important to note that it was his first year transitioning to college ice.
This season, he’s taken on an increased role, earning four points in 10 games. Like Berggren and many of the other prospects, he’s still got a ways to go before he can crack the Red Wings or Griffins roster.
Final Grade: C
Jesper Eliasson – 84th Overall
The Wings picked Eliasson to help usher in a new era of goaltenders in Motown. He put up a solid season in 2018-19 with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish SuperElit, with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage across 33 games.
This season, he’s on loan to Almtuna IS of the Allsvenskan league, where he’s working through a less-than-stellar .891 save percentage in just six games. He’s got a lot of work to do in order to stand out against fellow goaltending prospects like Filip Larsson.
Final Grade: D
Ryan O’Reilly – 98th Overall
Often confused with the NHL star of the same name, Ryan O’Reilly of the USHL has been lauded for his agility. Unfortunately, he suffers under pressure and in moments that require quick decision-making. Most later-round picks are considered projects, and O’Reilly is no exception. The 2019-20 season seems to be pushing him in the right direction, though. He’s an alternate captain on the Green Bay Gamblers with six points in eight games. It’s an uphill battle for O’Reilly, but consistency will be his most important factor to work through.
Final Grade: D+
Victor Brattstrom – 160th Overall
After going nearly 80 picks without a selection, the Wings chose 6-foot-4 Swedish goalie Victor Brattstrom. Facing 23 games in net in the SHL last season, he managed a 2.81 GAA and a .898 SV%. These, unfortunately, aren’t ideal numbers for an average tender, especially if the player hopes to make it in the NHL. This season, he has earned additional playing time and has slightly improved some of his statistics, but it, unfortunately, appears to be more of the same. Brattstrom will need to work a lot on his high glove and his ability to make saves when it counts while minimizing risks on odd-man rushes.
Final Grade: D
Otto Kivenmaki – 191th Overall
At just 5-foot-8 and 137 pounds, it isn’t surprising that most teams overlooked the Finnish forward. With their last pick, the Wings selected Kivenmaki, and he’s quickly proven to be a diamond in the rough (from ‘Wings prospect Kivenmaki makes up for size with ‘elite skill,’ The Detroit News – 7/31/2018).
He quietly put up 35 points in 23 games in the junior Liiga before graduating to the professional Finnish league, where he strung together a decent 16 points in 34 games. He wowed at the 2019 World Junior Showcase, scoring 9 points in 10 games against a variety of opponents. This year’s been a struggle for him as he’s worked through a tough spot in the Finnish Liiga. He only has two points in 17 games, and, unfortunately, seems to have met his match in terms of size.
He’ll have to put on a lot of weight and work harder than ever before if he wants to make it to North America, but he has the potential to be an excellent depth scorer if he can crack the roster.
Final Score: B-
Who is your valedictorian of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft? Who will wind up being the best player overall?