Unless the NHL changes the draft lottery rules in the face of the ongoing season suspension, the Detroit Red Wings will pick in the top four of the NHL entry draft. By now, names like Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield are very familiar to Red Wings fans. However, the organization’s success in the 2020 draft will be determined by their haul in the second round.
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The Red Wings hold three picks in the second round: their own (locked-in as the 32nd pick), the Edmonton Oilers’ and Washington Capitals’. While the two picks acquired in trades are likely to wind up at or near the end of the second round, there are sure to be some solid, if not spectacular players available. Finding these players will ensure that the Red Wings maximize the effects this draft has on their rebuild.
As is the case with the second round, it’s anyone’s guess who will be available at each pick. There are always players who rise and fall in the draft. That being said, there are still ideal candidates for each pick.
32nd Pick: Noel Gunler or Zion Nybeck
There will be fans who want this pick to be dedicated to picking the best defender available. Despite adding defender Moritz Seider in the first round last year, the team could certainly use another talented defender in the system. However, if guys like these are available at 32, you have to take them — regardless of position.
In Gunler’s case, it’s not a given that he’ll be available at 32; he’s been up and down in the draft rankings and teams have definitely taken note. He has spent the majority of his 2019-20 season in the SHL — Sweden’s top league. where he’s produced 13 points in 45 games. He’s definitely in need of some more seasoning, but he’s got potential as a two-way guy. He’s that typical guy who is on the fringe of the first round.
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On the other hand, Nybeck is another guy projected to go somewhere around picks 30 to 40. Another undersized forward, Nybeck’s 2019-20 season saw him dominate Sweden’s top minor league with 66 points in 42 games. His play at that level earned him 15 games with HV71 of the SHL. He may be small, but he’s got good hands and the willingness to get into puck battles in the dirty areas.
Like any other team in the league, the Red Wings are more than capable of going all over the board with their extra picks in the second round. However, there are some key players to focus on, given their availability.
One such player is Jan Mysak. His stock has taken a bit of a hit as others have seen their stock soar. A winger with decent size, spent time this season in his native Czech Republic as well as in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He’s not dominant offensively, but he’s the type of player that coaches can rely on no matter where they put him in the lineup. That has value, especially in the second round.
Forward Antonio Stranges is a native of Plymouth, Michigan who was a member of the London Knights during the 2019-20 season. Another “undersized” forward at 5’10”, he began the season as a projected first-round pick. His stock took a hit over the course of the season as he struggled to dominate against OHL competition. However, Stranges has the skill to produce, it’s just a matter of if he’s willing to put in the work to do so.
The lone defender profiled here, Yan Kuznetsov already boasts NHL size despite playing for the University of Connecticut this season. With 11 points through 34 games, Kuznetsov is far from an offensive-defenseman, but he’s got some promising traits. As a native of Russia, it also helps that he’s already getting used to the North American-style of hockey.
Finally, Tyson Foerster is in that middle tier of players ranked within the second round, but he’s got the build of a player picked in the first round. At 6’1″ and 194 pounds, Foerster has the frame to produce at the pro level. This season with the Barrie Colts, he’s produced 80 points through 62 games. He has a great shot and knows how to put pressure on the opposition.
The NHL recently postponed the NHL draft, meaning that there’s now more time to gather information on all available prospects. As these players continue their physical development at home, the final draft rankings are anybody’s guess. After all, the best way to get better at hockey is to keep playing.
With this in mind, it might behoove Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman to move some of his excess draft capital to move up in the draft and select a player they deem to be more of a “sure thing.” While any of the prospects listed here would be a solid addition to the system, the Red Wings should be open to anything that adds quality over quantity.
One thing is for certain: how the Red Wings elect to use their three picks in the second round will go a long way to shaping the long-term future of the organization. Whether they keep them or move them, there will certainly be some intriguing options available at each selection.