Red Wings 2018 Prospect Update

Next month, the Detroit Red Wings will once again have the opportunity to load up their prospect pipeline. With four choices in the first 36 picks of the 2018 NHL Draft, Detroit could add a few game-changers to its depth chart.

The Red Wings have already amounted a stable of quality players that they hope can lead the franchise out of this rebuilding phase. Led by Michael Rasmussen, Filip Hronek, and Dennis Cholowski, their progress is a critical factor when considering how long this process of restocking the organization will last.

Let’s take a look at how those recent selections and acquisitions developed this season as part of the 2018 Red Wings Summer Rebuild Series.

2017 Red Wings Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2017-18 Stats 2017-18 Team
1 C Michael Rasmussen 47 GP – 31 G – 28 A – 59 PTS Tri-City (WHL)
2 D Gustav Lindstrom 39 GP – 6 G – 8 A – 14 PTS Almtuna IS (Allsvenskan)*
3 D Kasper Kotkansalo 40 GP – 2 G – 4 A – 6 PTS Boston University (NCAA)*
3 RW Lane Zablocki 65 GP – 12 G – 19 A – 31 PTS Victoria (WHL)1
3 C Zach Gallant 54 GP – 16 G – 15 A – 31 PTS Peterborough (OHL)
3 G Keith Petruzzelli 17 GP – 2.88 GAA – .892 SV% Quinnipiac University (NCAA)
4 D Malte Setkov 26 GP – 0 G – 2 A – 2 PTS IK Pantern (Allsvenskan)*2
5 D Cole Fraser 50 GP – 3 G – 8 A – 11 PTS Peterborough (OHL)
6 C Jack Adams 28 GP – 4 G – 9 A – 13 PTS Union College (NCAA)
6 D Reilly Webb 66 GP – 1 G – 3 A – 4 PTS Saginaw (OHL)3
7 C Brady Gilmour 41 GP – 9 G – 16 A – 25 PTS Saginaw (OHL)
*Played in this year’s World Junior Championships.
1Also played for Red Deer and Lethbridge (WHL).
2Also played for Malmo (Swe) and Malmo J20 (SuperElit).
3Also played for Hamilton (OHL).

Remember when everyone thought drafting Michael Rasmussen was a bad idea?

Detroit’s 2017 first-round pick did his part to dispel notions that he was not worthy of a top-10 selection. Rasmussen put together a terrific post-draft season and an otherworldly WHL postseason, and he will be given a long look to make the Red Wings in the fall.

Related: Rasmussen’s 2018-19 Red Wings Role

Michael Rasmussen of the Detroit Red Wings.
Michael Rasmussen certainly validated Detroit’s decision to pick him in the top 10 of the 2017 NHL Draft. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Second-round selection Gustav Lindstrom will take a little longer to develop than Rasmussen. He’s expected to move up to Sweden’s top league next season and play for Frolunda HC. The nephew of former NHL defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson, Lindstrom plays a traditional Red Wings game, according to Hockey Prospect:

He looks calm and composed on the ice, and does not tend to play over aggressive in either end of the ice.

Playing for Boston University, blueliner Kasper Kotkansalo assumed a defensive-defenseman role for his high-powered team. It was pretty impressive on Kotkansalo’s part to appear in all 40 of BU’s games as an 18-year-old freshman with seniors on the sideline. Moving forward, he’ll need to build his offensive skills over the next three seasons to prepare himself for the next level.

Two of Detroit’s other third-round selections—Lane Zablocki and Zach Gallant—really did not do much to stand out in their post-draft years. After a couple of trades, Zablocki ended up playing for three WHL teams and only managed to score one goal in his final 25 regular-season games.

Gallant’s Peterborough Petes had a trying year. Even if you don’t put a lot of stock into the plus-minus statistic, it is notable that Gallant’s minus-5 on the season was substantially better than his teammates (minus-36 was the worst of the worst). However, his 0.57 points per game were less than optimal.

Detroit’s fourth third-round pick, Keith Petruzzelli, is full of promise but struggled during his first year at Quinnipiac University. However, the towering netminder found his form as the season came to a close – seizing the starting duties and leading his team through the opening round of the ECAC playoffs before losing to Cornell.

Related: Red Wings Goalies of the (Distant) Future

At the World Junior Championships, Malte Setkov was one of Denmark’s go-to defensemen, but struggled against elite junior forwards. Setkov needs to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame more in order to dictate play around the net and below the goal line.

Like Zablocki and Gallant, defensemen Cole Fraser and Reilly Webb did not take a step forward offensively this year. The two combined for four goals and will return for another year of junior hockey to improve their production. The Red Wings have another year to decide on whether or not they’ll sign these two late-round selections.

If you’re looking for a comparable situation for Jack Adams, consider David Pope’s post-draft path. Adams may not turn into the scorer that Pope was at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but he has three more years at Union College to develop his game.

Finally, Detroit’s seventh-round pick, Brady Gilmour, did not improve on his breakout 2016-17 season but still has another year of juniors to improve. He did miss 27 games this year, so perhaps a healthy 2018-19 campaign could earn Gilmour a contract with the Red Wings.

2016 Red Wings Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2017-18 Stats 2017-18 Team
1 D Dennis Cholowski 69 GP – 14 G – 52 A – 66 PTS Portland (WHL)1
2 RW Givani Smith 46 GP – 17 G – 13 A – 30 PTS Kitchener (OHL)2
2 D Filip Hronek 67 GP – 11 G – 28 A – 39 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)
4 D Alfons Malmstrom 34 GP – 2 G – 10 A – 12 PTS HV71 (SuperElit)
5 D Jordan Sambrook 67 GP – 10 G – 29 A – 39 PTS Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)3
6 G Filip Larsson 30 GP – 1.65 GAA – .941 SV% Tri-City (USHL)*
4 LW Mattias Elfstrom 49 GP – 5 G – 4 A – 9 PTS Vasterviks (Allsvenskan)4
*Played in this year’s World Junior Championships.
1Also played for Prince George (WHL).
2Also played for Guelph (OHL).
3Also played for Erie (OHL).
4Also played for Nybro (Division 1 – Swe).

After leaving St. Cloud State to expand his skills in the WHL, Dennis Cholowski did not disappoint. The former first-round pick elevated his game, putting up nearly a point per game and playing in all situations. Following a trade to Portland, Cholowski gained valuable playoff experience, where he scored five goals in 12 games.

Once Portland was eliminated from the postseason, Cholowski joined fellow 2016 draft pick Filip Hronek for Grand Rapids’ own playoff run. There, Hronek had just capped off an impressive first full season in the AHL, where he produced 39 points, took over quarterback duties on the first power play, and earned AHL All-Rookie honors.

Related: Red Wings at the World Championships

Filip Hronek of the Detroit Red Wings.
Filip Hronek could factor into Detroit’s lineup as soon as next season. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Givani Smith’s season lasted longer than Grand Rapids’, so he was unable to join Cholowski and Hronek down on the farm this year. He was a key contributor for the Kitchener Rangers after he was acquired at the OHL trade deadline. Smith will need to hone his aggression and temper next season if he wants to play valuable minutes for the Griffins. Fellow OHLer Jordan Sambrook may be there with him, but needs to sign an entry-level contract with the Red Wings before doing so.

After he provided quality play for high-powered Erie Otters teams, Sambrook was traded to Sault Ste. Marie for its postseason run. Before Sambrook was dealt, The Hockey Writers’ Mark Scheig, who covers Erie, had the opportunity to see him play on many nights. Scheig had this to say about Sambrook’s game:

Sambrook has had an up and down junior career. He brings instant offense and a boost to the power play. However, he hasn’t improved in the defensive end as the Red Wings have hoped.

Scheig also stated that he’s not sure if the Red Wings will offer the former fifth-round pick a contract now that his junior career is over. Detroit has until June 1 to sign Sambrook, or he’ll be eligible to re-enter the draft.

Filip Larsson absolutely dominated the USHL this season after coming over from Sweden. His .941 save percentage and seven shutouts ranked among the best in league history. Larsson is set to play for the University of Denver next season, though long-time coach Jim Montgomery will not be there to greet him. Montgomery recently signed on to be the next head coach of the Dallas Stars.

Related: Time to Upgrade Wings’ Goalie Pipeline

Larsson’s fellow countryman Mattias Elfstrom likely won’t factor into Detroit’s future. He’s already 21 years old and hasn’t reached Sweden’s top league for more than a few games. The Red Wings will retain his rights on their reserve list through 2020, so there’s time for the former seventh-round pick to take a step forward.

2015 Red Wings Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2017-18 Stats 2017-18 Team
1 RW Evgeny Svechnikov 57 GP – 7 G – 16 A – 23 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)*
3 D Vili Saarijarvi 42 GP – 0 G – 11 A – 11 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)1
4 G Joren van Pottelberghe 24 GP – 3.00 GAA – .905 SV% HC Davos (Swiss-A)
5 C Chase Pearson 37 GP – 7 G – 20 A – 27 PTS Maine (NCAA)
6 D Patrick Holway 33 GP – 6 G – 13 A – 19 PTS Maine (NCAA)
7 LW Adam Marsh 19 GP – 6 G – 7 A – 15 PTS Charlottetown (QMJHL)
*Also played with Detroit (NHL).
1Also played with Toledo (ECHL).

Patience is required for this draft class. Evgeny Svechnikov should start next season with the Red Wings, but can be stashed in Grand Rapids if need be. Because of their forward glut, the impending arrival of Rasmussen, and a possible lottery pick, it would not be surprising to see Svechnikov start next year with the Griffins even if he’s NHL-ready. He’ll definitely end the campaign with the big league club, though.

Related: Red Wings Roster: Room for Svechnikov?

Evgeny Svechnikov of the Detroit Red Wings.
Can Evgeny Svechnikov make the Red Wings out of camp next season? (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s more of the same for Vili Saarijarvi. With a multitude of defensemen in Grand Rapids, the organization tried to find ice time for the offensive defenseman. Saarijarvi spent some time in the ECHL, where he was clearly the best player on the ice. He was quickly back up with the Griffins, but fell victim to the numbers game once again as the team pushed for a return to the playoffs. Detroit needs to prioritize Saarijarvi and Cholowski’s development next season, as Grand Rapids will return its entire defensive corps, minus Joe Hicketts, who will be in Detroit.

Over in Switzerland, goaltender Joren van Pottelberghe increased the amount of games played from 17 to 24, but otherwise did not do much to stand out. He’s only 20 and is expected to remain overseas for another season, so there’s still time for van Pottelberghe to hone his game.

If you’re looking for sleeper prospects in the system, center Chase Pearson and defenseman Patrick Holway are two great candidates. The Maine duo both improved their offensive numbers when compared to their freshman seasons and earned larger roles with the team. Pearson, in particular, captained the squad as a sophomore and centered their top line.

Related: The Grind Line: 3 Underrated Red Wings Prospects

Detroit chose not to sign forward Adam Marsh, making him a free agent.

2014 Red Wings Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2017-18 Stats 2017-18 Team
1 C Dylan Larkin 82 GP – 16 G – 47 A – 63 PTS Detroit (NHL)
3 C Dominic Turgeon 69 GP – 14 G – 18 A – 32 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)*
4 C Christoffer Ehn 50 GP – 7 G – 10 A – 17 PTS Frolunda HC (SweHL)
5 G Chase Perry 12 GP – 3.62 – .895 SV% RPI (NCAA)
6 C Julius Vahatalo 60 GP – 6 G – 6 A – 12 PTS Jukurit Mikkeli (SM-liiga)
7 C Axel Holmstrom 66 GP – 7 G – 19 A – 26 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)
7 LW Alexander Kadeykin 45 GP – 7 G – 4 A – 11 PTS Yaroslavl (KHL)
*Also played for Detroit (NHL)

Apart from Dylan Larkin, it appears that only Dominic Turgeon and maybe one of Christoffer Ehn or Axel Holmstrom will factor into Detroit’s future. Turgeon had a nice NHL debut earlier this season for the Red Wings and could become a reliable, defense-focused fourth-line center with some offensive upside. If he’s able to recover from the blood clot that he’s dealing with, Turgeon could make the Red Wings out of training camp this fall as the 12th or 13th forward.

Related: Red Wings Call-Up of Todd Nelson Overdue

Ehn and/or Holmstrom could factor in down the road, but both centers need some seasoning before earning an NHL opportunity. Now 22, Ehn just wrapped his best season in Sweden’s top league to date. But after arriving in Grand Rapids for their playoff run, he was sent home with mono without playing an AHL game. On the other hand, Holmstrom had a solid first full AHL campaign. The former seventh-round pick is a known playoff performer and is someone to watch heading into this fall’s training camp.

Christoffer Ehn of the Detroit Red Wings.
Christoffer Ehn of Sweden and Auston Matthews of USA vie during the 2016 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship bronze medal game. (MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images)

The other three prospects from the 2014 draft class are long-shots at best to ever reach the NHL. As one of the top goalies entering the draft, Chase Perry hasn’t done much at the NCAA level since. The junior has won only eight times in 53 contests through three years. Julius Vahatalo has until June 1 to sign with the Red Wings or become a free agent, with the latter scenario being the most likely. Finally, it doesn’t appear Alexander Kadeykin will be coming over from the KHL anytime soon. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire there, so he’ll remain on Detroit reserve list until something changes.

Additional Hockeytown Prospects

Acq. Pos Name 2017-18 Stats 2017-18 Team
2 (‘13) C Zach Nastasiuk 20 GP – 1 G – 4 A – 5 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)*
4 (‘13) LW David Pope 35 GP – 20 G – 21 A – 41 PTS Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Trade LW Dylan Sadowy 39 GP – 12 G – 17 A – 29 PTS Toledo (ECHL)1
UFA D Libor Sulak 42 GP – 9 G – 23 A – 32 PTS Pelicans (SM-liiga)1
UFA D Dan Renouf 73 GP – 2 G – 10 A – 12 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)
UFA G Kaden Fulcher 55 GP – 2.86 GAA – .899 SV% Hamilton (OHL)
UFA D Joe Hicketts 67 GP – 3 G – 9 A – 12 PTS Grand Rapids (AHL)2
*Also played for Toledo (ECHL).
1Also played for Grand Rapids (AHL).
2Also played for Detroit (NHL).

The names to take away here are David Pope, Libor Sulak, and Joe Hicketts. Most already know the latter of the trio, Hicketts, as the feisty, undersized defenseman who made a terrific impression with the Red Wings at the end of the season. The young blueliner will likely start next year with Detroit, especially if free-agent-to-be Mike Green is not retained. Make no mistake – Hicketts belongs in the NHL. While he needs to minimize his defensive mistakes, his offensive skills are certainly up to snuff and position him as a future power-play quarterback.

Joe Hicketts of the Detroit Red Wings.
Joe Hicketts will be able to provide much-needed offense from the blueline next season. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Pope and Sulak dominated their respective leagues and are considered dark-horse candidates to make the Red Wings next season. Detroit just recently signed Pope – the forward wanted to finish his classes first before inking a deal. Smart kid! As for Sulak, the mobile defenseman tore up Finland’s top league before joining the Griffins for their playoff run. He’s older than most prospects (24), so while he’s more physically developed than most, his timeline to become an NHL player (or not) is shorter than the other defensemen in Detroit’s pipeline.

Apart from those three, keep an eye on Kaden Fulcher’s development. The Red Wings have been unable to draft and develop goalies in the past, so they’ll need all the netminding help that they can get. Fulcher leading his Hamilton team to an OHL Championship and berth in the Memorial Cup tournament is a good sign for Red Wings management.

Unless they take a huge step next season, Zach Nastasiuk, Dylan Sadowy, and Dan Renouf likely won’t factor into Detroit’s future. As a former second-round pick, Nastasiuk’s lack of development comes as a disappointment for the Red Wings, especially when you consider who was drafted after the center (Pavel Buchnevich, Jake Guentzel, and Brett Pesce).

Which Detroit Red Wings prospect intrigues you the most? Which is flying under the radar? Comment below!