The Grind Line: Grading the Red Wings’ 2021 Draft

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, Patrick Brown, and Kyle Knopp are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

This weekend, the Detroit Red Wings welcomed another draft class to the organization. Headlined by defenseman Simon Edvinsson, this year’s haul adds to an already impressive prospect pipeline.

In all, the Red Wings drafted eight players, including:

  • No. 6 – LD Simon Edvinsson
  • No. 15 – G Sebastian Cossa
  • No. 36 – LD Shai Buium
  • No. 70 – LW Carter Mazur
  • No. 114 – C Red Savage
  • No. 134 – C Liam Dower-Nilsson
  • No. 138 – RD Oscar Plandowski
  • No. 166 – C Pasquale Zito

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team grades the results of Detroit’s draft weekend and offers up analysis of the eight picks.

Related: Red Wings Prospect Rankings

Tony Wolak: B

It’s funny. When the Red Wings landed the No. 6 pick in the draft, I immediately looked to Edvinsson as the likely pick given his Frölunda connection and organizational need for an elite left-handed defenseman. I later deviated to Jesper Wallstedt, William Eklund, and finally Mason McTavish as the preferred pick.

In the end, it was Edvinsson. Should’ve stuck with my gut. 

That said, I wasn’t impressed with the overall pick valuation/asset management that took place during the draft. Trading No. 128 to move up two spots and select Buium likely wasn’t needed. Additionally, the Red Wings could have traded back before choosing Mazur in the third round. It was certainly possible – the Sharks acquired No. 81 and No. 177 for the very next pick.

The Red Wings got “their guys” but probably could have been more strategic in their execution. 

It’s not all bad, though. In fact, I think Detroit will get more than a few useful NHLers out of this draft. I can easily see Mazur, Savage, and Robert Mastrosimone forming a skilled checking line in a few years. More importantly, the Red Wings addressed two of their main prospect pipeline weaknesses—goalie and left defense—and turned them into clear-cut strengths.

Devin Little: B-Lieve

Overall, I have to say that I am intrigued by this draft class. There’s a few stand-out selections here: picking Savage and Dower-Nilsson back-to-back is a huge win in my opinion – both players have worn the captain’s ‘C’ at the junior level, and both project as bottom-six, tenacious forwards with some skill to offer. If you’re looking for any of Detroit’s later picks to overperform their draft slot, those are the two I’m looking at.

But I think whether or not this draft class is going to be considered a pass or a fail depends entirely on the guys taken on night one. Make no mistake, both Edvinsson and Cossa are big-time swings that offer huge upside, though also present the danger of falling short of expectations. I think Edvinsson needs a couple of years before we can talk about him playing in the NHL, and while I love Cossa’s confidence, I think he’s at least a couple of years out as well (which isn’t a big deal considering Yzerman brought in 25-year-old Alex Nedeljkovic do be the Red Wings’ goaltender of the present and near-future). Patience will be key. Both players could become franchise cornerstones, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. 

Related: Red Wings Fill Huge Needs on Night One of the 2021 Draft

All things considered, there’s a lot to like in this group. I respect Yzerman and his scouts for their aggressive approach to adding prospects they liked more than others; even though it cost a lot of extra picks to pull off those maneuvers, the team still added eight prospects through seven rounds. The prospect pool got a lot deeper this weekend, and there’s a number of prospects in this group that offer belief and hope that the tough days of this rebuild are slowly but surely coming to an end. 

Patrick Brown: B+

What more can be said about how crazy and exciting Friday was? We were actually recording our latest episode of The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line when news broke that GM Steve Yzerman traded up to pick No. 15, and we all instantly assumed Wallstedt was the guy. When it wasn’t, there was actually a twinge of disappointment, but that faded rather quickly once I started to make sense of it all.

Detroit Red Wings prospect Sebastian Cossa.
Sebastian Cossa in net for the Edmonton Oil Kings. (Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Saturday brought more of the same after Yzerman traded up two spots in the second round, and just when we all thought he may use the pick to address the Red Wings’ ongoing scoring woes—poof—another big defenseman. 

Just like that, the first three selections of this draft, combined with Yzerman’s acquisition of Alex Nedeljkovic a few days ago, has started to instill a confidence in the team’s defense that I haven’t felt in quite some time. 

Make no mistake, expectations must remain tempered, but it is incredibly reassuring to see the team heading in this direction.

Now, back to the earlier point about Detroit’s scoring woes, because it sure doesn’t seem like that was a major priority heading into this year’s draft. It should be noted that four of the team’s last five picks were forwards, though none were overly impressive in my opinion. That said, both Mazur and Red Savage (move over Chaz Lucius, I found a new favorite name from this draft!) had extremely productive 2020-21 campaigns, and there’s definitely potential there.

I think a B is a fair grade, because though I think Detroit’s draft was above average, I wasn’t blown away by any selections. The team is undoubtedly better because of the draft—and it may one day turn into an A—but it’s going to take years before that can be evaluated.

Kyle Knopp: A for Names Alone

Am I happy with how the draft turned out for the Wings? You better believe I am. And not just because I wrote that Detroit should take Edvinsson 

He addresses the need on the left side of the defense and presents a potential partner for Moritz Seider for years to come. Then Yzerman moved up to make sure he addressed another pressing need – a goaltender of the future. Sure, it wasn’t the one we expected, but the more I hear about Cossa’s compete level—and the fact he’s 6-foot-6—the more I trust Yzerman’s move there. 

Finally, the Wings rounded out their draft by taking another big left-handed defenseman, a goal scorer who grew up playing in the Little Caesars organization, and three centers to strengthen the depth down the middle. 

Overall, I give the Wings a B+ – I don’t think Yzerman needed to give up the No. 128 pick in order to move from No. 38 to No. 36 as his selection would have very likely still been there. But adding guys named Red Savage and Shai Buium (pronounced Shy Boo-yhim) instantly bumps the grade to an A. 

How would you grade the Red Wings’ 2021 draft class? Comment below!

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