The Detroit Red Wings will have a wide variety of top-end prospects available to them in this year’s draft as they look to pick one of their next franchise centerpieces at eighth overall. The 2022 NHL Draft is considered by many to be on the weaker side with a lack of a sure-fire superstar at the top of the draft like Connor McDavid (2015 Draft) or Connor Bedard (2023 Draft). However, the first round is quite deep, so there should be plenty of excellent prospects who slip all the way to the playoff teams at the bottom of the opening round.
This means that the Red Wings will have options. Maybe they will decide that their need for a top-six centerman is too great, and they’ll select Marco Kasper. Maybe they will go for a top winger in Jonathan Lekkerimäki or Danila Yurov. Maybe one of Simon Nemec, David Jiricek or Matthew Savoie fall to eighth and they get a steal. That’s a lot of maybes, but what we know for a fact is that general manager Steve Yzerman runs an exceptionally tight ship and the chances that the Red Wings’ true draft target’s name is leaked before the draft are incredibly slim.
That’s where we come in. Your Detroit Red Wings writing team here at The Hockey Writers has been profiling a few of the top prospects that we think could end up joining the team as their eighth overall selection in the draft this July. We hope to help get the fanbase excited about whichever player Yzerman eventually selects and that’s exactly what this “Draft Targets” series is all about.
Related: Red Wings 2022 Draft Coverage
Today’s draft target is Finnish winger Joakim Kemell. Let’s see what his game is all about and how he’d fit in with this Red Wings team should he join the franchise in the future.
Earlier in the season, Kemell was in the conversation to go second in the draft, behind only Shane Wright. His early success in the Finnish Liiga, the top professional hockey league in Finland, at such a young age was astounding. Though he has since cooled off considerably, he is still a very highly sought-after prospect who is expected to fill the net in a big way at the NHL level one day.
Kemell’s primary skills are his shot and his stick handling, both of which he frequently uses while creating offense off the rush. He has one of the best shots in this year’s draft, which explains how a 17-year-old could score 15 goals in one of the best professional hockey leagues in the world. He played most of the 2021-22 season at age 17, though he recently turned 18 in late April. Having a later birthday often results in players dropping slightly down draft boards as the late teenage years are incredibly important in a player’s development. If one player has had six more months to grow and learn, they may be selected higher simply because they are a bit further along in their development.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Some talent evaluators complain that Kemell is just a bit too small and would be drafted higher if he somehow gained another inch or two of height. However, that is ridiculous because, at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, he is plenty big. Sometimes it seems that people think the difference between 5-foot-11 and 6-feet is more than an inch. Regardless, he doesn’t need a bigger body to make an impact as he has shown consistently throughout this season. He plays an energetic and physical game that looks like an excellent fit for the NHL. Where many young prospects struggle with physicality while transitioning into the NHL, he should thrive.
Kemell’s shot is incredible and someday he will surely become a fixture on the power play in the NHL as he is proficient with both his wrist shot and one-timer. He can get his shot off from a variety of positions and at any speed, meaning that his release is as versatile as it is lethal.
As is the case for many young players, Kemell’s main weakness is his defensive play and overall consistency. His defensive positioning and instincts are not bad exactly, he was rarely a major liability while on the ice, but he still has some work ahead of him. His game as a Finnish offense-first sniper has drawn some comparisons to Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine. While there are some surface-level similarities, the two players are quite different, mostly because of the six-inch height discrepancy between the two and the difference in consistent effort level.
“He’s a slick, play-creating winger who excels in possession, carves teams up through coverage to take the play from the flanks to the interior, and possesses quick, light hands.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic, (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 100 prospects: Scott Wheeler’s final rankings’, The Athletic, 6/6/22)
“He has natural goal-scoring predatory instincts and can score in many different ways. Kemell just wants the puck on his stick so he can be the difference-maker and rightfully so as he is a very creative and confident player.” – Marek Novotny, Dobber Prospects
“You can set him up from mid-range and he can finish. He lacks size, but he plays hard, showing no fear of engaging physically to win back pucks or to take a hit to make a play.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic, (from ‘NHL Draft 2022 top 127 prospects: Juraj Slafkovsky leads Corey Pronman’s list’, The Athletic, 5/31/22)
Kemell’s inconsistent play is the biggest risk when it comes to drafting him, as he was red-hot to start his season in Liiga before cooling off considerably. He had a solid showing at the IIHF U18 World Championship in May which may help calm some concerns, as his eight points in five games were quite impressive. Not to mention he scored a hat trick in the quarterfinal round against Team Canada including the overtime winner. He has excelled against his age group over the last two seasons but he will need to continue taking steps forward to excel in the Liiga next season before transitioning to North America. His defensive game also leaves something to be desired though it wasn’t too bad considering how young he was while playing in a league against grown men.
Kemell is a dynamic offensive player who has clear top-six upside as well as an outside chance at becoming a top-line scoring winger. He would surely help improve the Red Wings’ abysmal power play with his excellent shot, immediately becoming one of their most dangerous weapons. His high effort level and strong skating work well with his offensive talent when he attacks off the rush, as he shows off his confidence and edgework when working to the middle of the offensive zone to create scoring chances.
Kemell’s Fit in Detroit
Though he is neither a centerman nor a defenseman, Kemell would fill a clear hole in the Red Wings’ depth chart moving forward as an excellent offensive player who can be pencilled in as one of their top-six wingers of the future alongside Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren. Obviously, the team’s need for defensive improvements at all positions would not be filled by this pick, but you can never expect to fix multiple problems with just one selection. Defensive improvements can be found in free agency, the trade market, and simply being patient enough for prospects to graduate to the NHL.
Players like Kemell don’t grow on trees and this team is positioned well to help develop his game to the best it can be. The Red Wings will be happy to let him play in the Liiga next year before coming over to the American Hockey League (AHL) and eventually earning his spot in the NHL. He is going to need some time to fully develop (considering he just turned 18) and they are certainly not in a rush to slot him into the lineup. A team that is more desperate for immediate help could possibly rush him into the big leagues before he is ready which has been an issue for some prospects, but the Red Wings are on the upswing of their rebuild and will surely have the patience to do what is best for him in the long-term.
Why Kemell Should Be Selected Eighth Overall
Kemell’s excellent offensive game is one of the hardest things to find in the draft and the Red Wings would be lucky to select him this year. If he was a bit older and had a few more months to develop, I believe he would still be regarded as one of the top-five prospects in this year’s draft so I think that he would be an absolute home run if he falls a spot or two and lands in Detroit. There are always risers come draft day and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kemell drop a few spots as a result of someone like Marco Kasper or Matthew Savoie being drafted in the top five.
Kemell would be an excellent addition to this Red Wings team and there is a decent chance he makes it to eighth overall. It certainly isn’t difficult to picture the dominance of a forward line composed of Lucas Raymond, Dylan Larkin and Joakim Kemell. That is an excellent line that would impose their will on their opponent on any given night while being absolutely electric offensively.
Other Red Wings Draft Targets
How would you feel about the Red Wings selecting Joakim Kemell at eighth overall this year? Do you think his struggles with consistency make him too risky of a pick or is his offensive game too tantalizing to pass up? What is your dream forward line for the Red Wings that includes Kemell? Sound off in the comments below!