The Grind Line: Red Wings’ 2022 Draft Grades

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Kyle Knopp, Delaney Rimer, and Logan Horn are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

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The 2022 NHL Draft is now over and the Red Wings came away with nine selections. Steve Yzerman, Kris Draper, and Detroit’s management team ultimately settled on the following prospects:

  • No. 8 – C Marco Kasper
  • No. 40 – LW Dylan James
  • No. 52 – RW Dmitri Buchelnikov
  • No. 105 – RD Anton Johansson
  • No. 113 – C Amadeus Lombardi
  • No. 129 – LW/C Maximilian Kilpinen
  • No. 137 – LD Tnias Mathurin
  • No. 201 – C Owen Mehlenbacher
  • No. 212 – C Brennan Ali

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their grades for Detroit’s 2022 draft class. Let’s dive in!

The Hockey Writers - The Grind Line - Detroit Red Wings
Which draft pick was most surprising? (The Hockey Writers)

Tony Wolak: C+

On Day 1, the Red Wings addressed a clear organizational need by drafting Marco Kasper to be a top-six center. On Day 2, … Detroit did something else. Their second-round picks—Dylan James and Dmitri Buchelnikov—were reaches. They did not maximize value whatsoever. On a related note, director of amateur scouting Kris Draper had the following to say:

“It’s amazing how if you like a player, you have to get a player. … Don’t try to predict the draft or play the draft. So I’d say that’s probably one of the biggest things that I’ve learned over the last couple years: You want ’em? Get ’em.”

–Kris Draper (from ‘The Red Wings’ Ville Husso trade, and 12 thoughts on Detroit’s NHL Draft’ – The Athletic – 7/8/22)

Frankly, I disagree. When you’re rebuilding, it’s not just about stockpiling prospects. It’s also about surpassing other teams. You need to find efficiencies to leapfrog other organizations. Detroit’s 2022 draft strategy was the opposite.

I’m fine with the prospects Detroit selected. But the strategy left a lot to be desired.

Devin Little: B- 

The fact of the matter is that the Red Wings took *a lot* of players that I would not have. Kasper over Matthew Savoie is going to be something I’ll be watching for the foreseeable future. Most of the names taken on the second day of the draft are names that I wasn’t familiar with – though at least one of those players—Buchelnikov—already seems like a prospect we all should have been more familiar with.

Related: Red Wings Get the Center They Need in Marco Kasper

At the end of the draft, both Yzerman and Draper seemed quite pleased with their haul. Perhaps this shows some weak critical thinking skills on my end, but I’m choosing to believe in the work Detroit’s scouting department put in this year. They haven’t given me a reason to doubt them yet, and I do believe that they got NHL players out of their first two picks. I give this class a B-minus because it doesn’t excite me, but I think there’s a chance it will excite me in a couple of years. 

Kyle Knopp: C+/B-

I’m going to give this a range, since it will be impossible to know the true value of this draft until years down the road. I absolutely love the Kasper pick at No. 8 — and not just because I predicted it back in May! Kasper addresses multiple needs the Wings had to confront in this draft: NHL-ready size, hockey IQ, strength down the middle, and a player that could potentially make an immediate impact on the roster. However, outside of the first round, it is almost impossible to know the return Yzerman should expect. 

Marco Kasper of the Detroit Red Wings
Marco Kasper, following his selection by the Detroit Red Wings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that said, and with Yzerman’s draft history, in two or three years we could be looking back at this class and confidently giving it an A. Centers Amadeus Lombardi, Owen Mehlenbacher, and Brennan Ali could be the hidden gems that strengthen the Red Wings’ depth down the middle for the future, while James, Buchelnikov, and Maximilian Kilpinen develop into contributing wingers in a deep system. 

While I don’t expect many of these guys outside of Kasper to fight for a roster spot in the next two years, I am excited to see what this list of relatively unknowns can bring to the organization. As always, I trust Yzerman and his staff to draft the best players possible, which is why I’m giving this a C+/B- based off what is known versus future potential – and because I expect to eat crow down the road when Yzerman proves us all wrong again! 

Delaney Rimer: B-

I’ll be the odd-man-out here and give the 2022 Red Wings draft class a B-minus. I feel as if this is a good “positive neutral” grade to give since I don’t really have any true strong feelings on the matter. 

All in all, would it really be a draft class selected by Yzerman if people weren’t questioning his decisions? The later round picks that I personally was not familiar with or aware of could end up being diamonds in the rough and prove us all wrong. Take Elmer Soderblom for example, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Draft and is ready to compete for a roster spot this upcoming season. 

Related: Red Wings’ Elmer Soderblom is Ready for NHL Action

The highlight of this draft class is quite obviously Kasper, as everyone else is saying. He is our best forward prospect in my opinion due to his trajectory and positional value, so Yzerman definitely made the right call here. Honestly, my personal favorite bit of information I’ve heard about him thus far isn’t necessarily related to his on-ice game. Knowing that he learned Swedish in preparation for going to the SHL and then English prior to the NHL speaks volumes about him as a person and teammate. The future is still bright for the prospect pool as well as the Red Wings’ list of prospects with really cool names – Amadeus Lombardi taking the cake in that realm. 

Logan Horn: C+

C-plus – the ultimate neutral grade. This draft class will be a great barometer for the fanbase. Full trust in the “Yzerplan” on one side and skepticism and nervous energy on the other.

Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings General Manager
Steve Yzerman is slowly but surely turning the Detroit Red Wings into a contender. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Selecting Kasper at eighth-overall was a win in my book, but many of the subsequent picks were head-scratchers. James at No. 40 was a bit off the board. That said, It was still good value for the USHL’s rookie of the year, and a player whose profile reminds me a bit of another Red Wings prospect, Carter Mazur. And at No. 52, Buchelnikov was a bold pick on an under-the-radar skater, as he probably could have been selected later. 

I’m on board with the three picks made in the first two rounds, but the rest of the draft left me wanting more. Obviously, we’ve been down this road before with somewhat disappointing draft classes looking excellent down the road. I’m not about to write something that’ll appear in a sassy video when Lombardi somehow wins the 2025 Calder Trophy, so I’ll just say that I’ll remain optimistic until we can see what these new prospects are made of next season. 

How would you grade the Red Wings’ 2022 draft class? Comment below!