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.
It’s official: the Detroit Red Wings will choose sixth-overall in the 2021 NHL Draft – again.
That’s right – the same draft slot they used to select Filip Zadina and Moritz Seider in the 2018 and 2019 drafts, respectively. This year will be no different – Steve Yzerman will get to choose another building block in the familiar No. 6 spot.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their preferred sixth-overall pick. Let’s dive in.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Tony Wolak: LD Simon Edvinsson
I’m sure my opinion will change over the next couple months, but I think Simon Edvinsson is the choice for the Red Wings. This assumes Matt Beniers, Owen Power, Dylan Guenther, Luke Hughes, and Brandt Clarke as selected with the first five picks.
Edvinsson is a left-shot defenseman with outstanding mobility and puckhandling skills. He comes from Sweden’s famed Frölunda organization – the same program that produced Lucas Raymond, Theodor Niederbach, and Elmer Söderblom. Edvinsson also possesses a strong internal drive to succeed, much like Dylan Larkin and Moritz Seider.
It’s fair to assume that Edvinsson will be a top-pair, all-situations defenseman in the near future. Pairing him with Seider would give the Red Wings two impressive two-way blueliners atop their depth chart.
If the Red Wings want to go with a forward, William Eklund is their guy. I’m not sold on using the No. 6 pick to select a goalie, but Jesper Wallstedt has a tremendous future ahead of him, and I could be convinced to pump up another member of the #GoalieUnion.
Devin Little: LW/C William Eklund
Call me an old pair of jeans because I am TORN. Heading into this season, my mindset about the 2021 draft was that the Red Wings were going to have an opportunity to draft Moritz Seider’s future defensive partner on Detroit’s top pairing. With that mindset, I can easily get behind Tony’s pick, but something about Edvinsson makes me apprehensive. He’s a bit of a boom or bust prospect in my opinion, and while I’m not opposed to swinging for the fences with the sixth pick, I’d rather take Wallstedt if we’re taking that approach.
This leads me to Eklund. While I’m not convinced that he’ll be available when it’s Detroit’s turn to pick (hello Columbus), I can’t ignore the upside that this player has.
He had a very solid season in the SHL, where he produced 23 points in 40 games while playing against men; for reference, Lucas Raymond—the Red Wings’ top pick last season—had just 10 points in 33 games last season in the SHL, though he played in a smaller role than Eklund did this season. Eklund can play on the wing or down the middle, though I think his ultimate upside is on the wing, and anybody who follows me knows my thoughts on adding prospects on the wing.
All things considered, there are a handful of players that I’d be fine with seeing the Red Wings draft, and so much of it will depend on who is selected before Detroit has the opportunity to make a pick. I love Eklund’s versatility as a forward, and I think taking him would go a long way towards cementing the future forward core of the Red Wings. Plus, come on – who wouldn’t like to see another spectacular Swede join the organization!?
Patrick Brown: G Jesper Wallstedt
OK, fine, I’ll bite! Despite the fact that GM Steve Yzerman seemed to elude that there were no goalie prospects within the top-10 last week, he’s proven time and time again that you never quite know what direction he’s going to go. And, with all due respect to the crop of goalies presently in the pipeline, the one thing seemingly missing from Detroit’s cupboard right now is a goaltending prospect to be excited about.
Jesper Wallstedt can change that.
There’s little debate on whether Wallstedt is the best goalie in this year’s draft, but where it starts to get murky is where he truly fits in the first round. So, hey, what the heck? Swing for the fences, Steve! The 18-year-old Swede has been playing at the international level for literally all of his teenage years, and played 22 games for the SHL’s Lulea HF in 2020-21. He went 12-10-0 with two shutouts, a 2.23 goals against average, and a .908 save percentage in 22 regular season games in the SHL, which, as Devin kindly pointed out above, is one of the top men’s leagues in the world.
He certainly is not a sure thing, but the lack of generational talent in this year’s draft makes it worth the risk to try and lock down the Red Wings’ goalie of the future.
Kyle Knopp: Trade Down
Here’s the thing about the 2021 draft, it’s a total crap shoot. While the Wings will be happy with any of the three above-mentioned players if they are available at six—and most indications show that all three will be—it is impossible to predict where anyone will fall. Yzerman alluded to it in his draft lotto press conference, there is no consensus top pick this year.
It was even suggested in that same press conference that there wasn’t a goalie worth taking in the top-10. While that may be Yzerman’s way of being coy and playing his cards close to his chest, it could also be a way of cooling the interest on the netminders available as he makes his true move—trading down in the draft.
Think about it, there are plenty of potential trade partners that might give up an extra later round pick or would be willing to flip it for a first next year. Detroit also owns Washington’s first round pick which will fall in the 23-24 range, so why not try to bolster picks for next year’s draft which is already expected to be much deeper.
The Wings could also try to utilize their sixth pick to trade for an asset now. Calgary, Dallas, and Philadelphia could all be trade partners that would be willing to give up a player they are unable to protect in the expansion draft for the opportunity to draft higher, while still allowing the Wings to get one of the top goaltenders in the draft.