The Grind Line: Detroit Red Wings’ Best North American Prospects

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. Rachel Anderson, Raymond Harrison, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Whether they’re playing in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), making their way through the college hockey system, or developing in the USA Hockey Team Development Program (USNTDP), North American prospects have options for their futures. The Detroit Red Wings draw directly from these systems to draft and develop the stars of the future. Players like Anthony Mantha, who spent two years with the Val D’or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), owe their success to these systems.

Last week, The Hockey Writers’ Detroit Red Wings coverage team took a look at the best international prospects in the Red Wings’ pipeline. This time around, the Grind Line will be taking a look at the Red Wings’ Junior league prospects. Whether they’re making a name for themselves in college or rounding out their skills in the CHL, these players are right on track to seeing themselves to Detroit.

Jake Rivard

While technically a prospect with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Grand Rapids Griffins, Chase Pearson’s road to success stems directly from his junior experience. A fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Pearson has proven to be a diamond in the rough over the last few seasons. The high-energy center played three seasons with the University of Maine, serving as captain for two of them before signing his contract with the Griffins. He’s able to play up and down the lineup as needed, serving as a strong, two-way player akin to a Luke Glendening or a shiftier version of Darren Helm. If he makes his way to the NHL, he’ll likely serve a depth role on the roster, working on the penalty kill to ensure all threats are contained.

The majority of the Red Wings’ defensive prospects are currently playing overseas. With that being said, there are still a few players worth keeping an eye on in North American games. Eighteen-year-old Cooper Moore, who just finished his first season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with 15 points in 26 games, is one such example. The Connecticut native, taken 128th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, is set to begin his first season at the University of North Dakota. He’ll be playing in the same program that brought players like Zach Parise, TJ Oshie, Jonathan Toews, and Brock Boeser to success; if he keeps up his steady positioning on the back end, it’s likely that he’ll begin a journey that may one day see him on NHL ice.

Like their defensive prospects, the Red Wings’ goaltending depth lies within Europe. Still, a few names are due their respective consideration. One eye-catching prospect is recent draftee Carter Gylander, who fought through adversity (from ‘Goalie Gylander bucks odds and gets taken by Detroit,’ Edmonton Sun – 6/22/2019) as a backup to earn his spot in the draft.

Standing at 6-foot-5, Gylander is a colossus of a goaltender, utilizing his size and flexibility to block out his opponents in the American Junior Hockey League (AJHL). This year, he’s managed to keep up a .922 save percentage (SV%) with a 2.11 goals against average (GAA) in 16 games with the Sherwood Park Crusaders in the AJHL. He’s committed to Colgate University for the 2020-21 season and will likely not see NHL ice for some time, but it is very comforting to note his strong success at such an early age.

Check out the THW Prospects Page to see the Next Wave of NHL Stars

Rachel Anderson

When Detroit picked Robert Mastrosimone in this year’s draft, I literally squealed with joy. Spending three seasons now in the USHL, I had the opportunity to watch Mastrosimone with the Chicago Steel. He was an incredible player at the junior level and is proving to be a highly-skilled player at the collegiate level. In his first season in the college circuit, he’s already tallied 7 points in 11 games. Playing with a loaded Boston University team who also boasts Trevor Zegras, Alex Vlasic and several others, that is no easy task. He was a very smart and fast player in the USHL, which appears to have translated well to college. Having the potential of four full seasons of development is a plus for the Red Wings and I believe Robert will exceed expectations well before then.

Robert Mastrosimone of the Chicago Steel
Robert Mastrosimone of the Chicago Steel (Hickling Images)

Defensively, Jared McIsaac is one to keep a close eye on. Though he’s missed this season so far with a nagging shoulder injury, he’s expected to return shortly. When he does, I don’t think he’ll miss a beat. McIsaac is a physical but intentional player. He’s no goon but can get the pucks out of corners proficiently. He’s also got the offensive edge we need as a team. He put up 62 points in 53 games in 2018-19 with the Halifax Mooseheads (QJMHL) prior to his injury. My only concern would be his long-term health with his shoulder. He’s young and if properly taken care of, he shouldn’t be too much of a fight risk, so-to-speak. He’d pair very well with current defenseman, Filip Hronek up top as they both play similarly. 

Jared McIsaac
Jared McIsaac, Detroit Red Wings, Sept. 2018 (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Goaltending is a sticky subject for Detroit. Their prospect pool is deep, but when it comes to North American goalie prospects, not so much. Keith Petruzzelli is the closest to being “developed” at the junior and collegiate levels. Playing in the ECAC with Quinnipiac University, Petruzzelli has put up a healthy 2.43 GAA so far this season in 13 games. The big question mark surrounding him is consistency, however. The two seasons prior, he only had 17 and 14 games played, which isn’t a whole lot of time to get your skates dug in. He’s proven he’s capable of strong numbers, but with only one season technically left before a decision has to be made as to his status, he’s facing great odds with the European prospects discussed last week.