Ask any Detroit Red Wings fan and they’ll tell you how disappointing it is to miss out on Alexis Lafreniere. However, fourth overall in the NHL Draft has produced several star players before, including Detroit’s general manager Steve Yzerman, who was drafted in that slot by the Red Wings in the 1983 Draft. That being said, here are four potential players Detroit could pick when Yzerman goes up to the (virtual) podium on draft night.
“Best Player Available:” D Jamie Drysdale (Erie Otters, OHL)
I put the term “best player available” in quotation marks because it’s subjective depending on who you ask. If you asked 100 different people on who the fourth-best player in this draft was, you’d probably get a mixed bag of results. However, there’s one guy that stands out to me as the best player available for Yzerman to take fourth overall.
Defenseman Jamie Drysdale, originally from Toronto, had two consecutive seasons with at least 40 points for the Erie Otters, including 47 points in 49 games this past season. If I had to compare him to someone, Quinn Hughes is a player with a similar structure and style of play as a breakout star who knows how to move the puck (evident by his 38 assists this season). Think of Colorado Avalanche prospect/Vancouver Giant defenseman Bowen Byram but slightly smaller.
If the Wings take Drysdale, it would create a crowded pool of defensive prospects for Detroit but that’s not a bad problem to have. There’s never such a thing as having too many defenders. If taken, Drysdale would join 2019 first-round selection Moritz Seider, 2016 first-round pick Dennis Cholowski, and 2018 second-round choice Jared McIssac in Detroit’s young D-core. Drysdale is also a right-handed shot, which is rare in the NHL, making him more valuable than some players at this spot.
Filling a Need: LW Lucas Raymond (Frolunda HC, SHL)
These are the Detroit Red Wings we’re talking about so there are plenty of needs to fill. However, left wing is certainly a position lacking skill for Detroit and adding Lucas Raymond would help fill that need. Raymond brings an elite talent that is sensational on the big ice but might need some adjusting to succeed in the NHL.
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In 33 games with Frolunda HC of the Sweden Hockey League last season, Raymond netted six goals and four assists for 10 total points. At the World Juniors in Ostrava, Raymond scored two goals and two assists for Sweden but did not score in any of their playoff-round games. He’s got tremendous skill, including beautiful hands and outrageous speed, that makes him extremely tough to defend.
Raymond is under contract with Frolunda HC in 2020-21 and with all the uncertainty in North America, it might be best for him to stay in Sweden next season. If he has another strong campaign in the SHL, the next move for him would be the NHL and should the Red Wings take him, he could be their second-line left winger in 2021-22. It’s a scenario that makes sense for both Raymond and the Red Wings as both sides could benefit from a potential relationship.
Sneaky Good Pick: C Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit, OHL)
Although it’s way too early to know, there’s a chance Cole Perfetti could be the steal of the draft. Coming off an impressive season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, Perfetti tallied 111 points in 61 games, including 74 assists. THW’s Devin Little wrote an excellent piece on why Detroit should take Perfetti and it’s a must-read in case you haven’t seen it yet.
Similar to the Drysdale pick, there’s no such thing as having too many centers on your roster. Adding Perfetti would give the Red Wings another elite center prospect to potentially slide into the second-line spot behind Dylan Larkin sometime down the road. Again, I don’t believe Perfetti is ready for that role right now but fortunately, Detroit is nowhere close to a playoff spot so they can afford to be patient on a prospect like Perfetti.
You’d have to believe Perfetti would enter any NHL training camp with a chip on his shoulder after how last season finished. Perfetti was one of Canada’s final cuts at last year’s World Juniors (as they went on to win gold) and he didn’t get a chance to showcase his skills in the OHL playoffs for Saginaw as the season was cut short due to COVID-19. Acquiring someone motivated and hungry like that is something GMs desire and there’s no doubt Yzerman would love to add that to the Red Wings with the fourth overall selection. That’s what makes Perfetti a sneaky good pick, especially for Detroit.
Dark Horse Surprise: G Yaroslav Askarov (SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, VHL)
Yes, Detroit taking Askarov would be the highest goalie selected since Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003. Yes, teams don’t like taking goalies in the top 10 because they are extremely hard to project and develop into long-term NHL starters. I am aware of all this. However, the reasons for taking Askarov make more sense than you might realize.
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First, Detroit has no long-term option at goalie. Jimmy Howard is a UFA this offseason and I doubt Detroit tries to re-sign him for any significant amount of money. That leaves the Red Wings with Jonathan Bernier for one more year and the likes of Filip Larsson, Keith Petruzzelli, and Victor Brattstrom in the system. If Detroit drafts Askarov, they could bring him over and see where his skill level is at in some NHL games. They could also draft Askarov, let him play in Europe next season, and see what they have between Larsson, Fulcher, and Brattstrom. None of those three guys are sure things but Larsson might be the closest to starting in the NHL so maybe they’d give him an opportunity first.
Plus, Detroit is going to have to retain salary when/if they decide to move on from some of their albatross contracts. Teams aren’t going to be chomping at the bit to take on the rest of Justin Abelkaider’s or Frans Nielsen’s contract. That means Detroit isn’t going to be able to spend on some positions like they normally would and need to find value deals. By taking Askarov, Detroit would be able to play him while he’s on his rookie deal, giving Yzerman extra cash to spend in other areas where needed.
Askarov, like Spencer Knight in the 2019 NHL Draft, is the consensus best goalie in the draft but even Knight had to wait until 13th overall to be selected. That could very well happen with Askarov and if Detroit likes him as a prospect, they could very easily trade down to draft him. Yzerman has been known to make surprise picks before (taking Seider sixth overall last year comes to mind) but taking Askarov fourth overall would be the ultimate dark horse surprise that no one would expect.
Missing out on a potential franchise player like Alexis Lafreniere will sting for a rebuilding club like the Red Wings. But there are plenty of good, quality players for Detroit to take at fourth overall and with GM Steve Yzerman at the helm, he has several different options to go with. It’s all leading up to what should be an intriguing draft on October 9-10.