Entering the 2022 NHL Draft, the word around the Detroit Red Wings was that they needed to come out of the first round with a center prospect they can build around heading into the future. So then maybe it was of little surprise that general manager Steve Yzerman did just that and selected a center prospect out of – where else? – the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
Ladies and gentleman, Marco Kasper is a Red Wing.
Kasper immediately becomes the Red Wings’ top center prospect. Detroit’s newest prospect has big upside and is one of the most projectable players in the 2022 draft. And, as you’re about to find out, he checks a lot of boxes of what constitutes a “typical” Red Wings pick.
Kasper Has Huge Two-Way Ability
While playing in the SHL this season, Kasper impressed with his ability to hang with the best that league has to offer. In 46 games, he recorded seven goals and 11 points. He followed that up by posting six points in 13 playoff games for Rögle BK. For comparison’s sake, Lucas Raymond recorded four goals and 10 points in 33 games in the SHL during his draft year.
Perhaps one of the coolest tid-bits to come out of this selection was that, during his 10 games in the SHL during the 2020-21 campaign, his lone assist in 10 games came on a goal scored by his future teammate with the Red Wings: Moritz Seider.
Kasper will continue to record assists and points because he knows where to be on the ice. He isn’t afraid to go to slot and take the punishment that comes in that territory. He is equally willing to go to the tough areas of the ice in the defensive zone, and his defensive game could be what feeds his offensive game at the NHL level.
“Kasper is not the sort of player that a team drafts with the expectation of him becoming a 70-plus-point player in the NHL. His game isn’t currently suited for elite offense, though his solid defensive game and high levels of effort and creativity on offense make him a safe bet to be a really good second-line player who could possibly move higher up the lineup if his offensive game develops further. Kasper is an excellent player in tight spaces, battles along the board, fighting for rebounds or making tight passes to teammates in the slot.”
But perhaps Yzerman himself described Kasper’s game best when he met with the media following the pick:
[Kasper is] not flashy, he’s very efficient.– Yzerman on Kasper
Kasper plays with speed and tenaciousness, and he’s got all the tools of a future premiere penalty killer at the NHL level. Considering the Red Wings have always prioritized two-way play in their prospects, this pick sure seems to fit like a glove.
Kasper has an NHL-ready toolkit based on his two-way game, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to play in the NHL. At 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, he’ll need to add some weight to give him the strength he needs to play down the middle. Furthermore, he will more than likely get a nice opportunity to play big minutes in the SHL next season – an opportunity he likely won’t get in the NHL. Yzerman stated that he hadn’t discussed the plan for next season with Kasper yet, but they’ll have that conversation soon enough. That’s fine though – Yzerman’s first choices in every draft since taking over as GM have spent at least one season in the SHL before coming over to North America. Detroit clearly trusts the SHL’s development model, and they’re trusting it again with their top pick in the 2022 draft.
Following the 2022-23 season, Kasper should be set to push for an NHL job in 2023-24. At that point, he might be able to step into the Red Wings’ second line center position right away; he has enough skill in his game to hang with players like Raymond and prospect Jonatan Berggren, and he has enough grit in his game to play on both the power play and the penalty kill. Kasper may be Austrian, but he’s going to be a real Swiss Army knife for the Red Wings, and that might just be the floor for what he can be at the NHL level.
Red Wings Get Their Guy
As we got closer and closer to the draft, Kasper’s name was linked to the Red Wings more and more. To that point, he was the Red Wings’ pick in the first round of our THW Mock Draft back in May. Maybe the writing was on the wall all along, but now the young center is a Red Wing. Now the real work begins.
As things stand today, the Red Wings added a player with one of the highest “floors” in the draft. Some will question his ultimate upside, but few doubt his ability to become an NHL player. With Seider and Raymond already in place, and Simon Edvinsson, Sebastian Cossa, Berggren and now Kasper on the way, the Red Wings are building a team centered around skill, size, and two-way ability. It’s going to be very exciting to see how the newest Red Wing fits into that picture.
When asked what Kasper’s best trait is, Yzerman gave an answer that was short and concise – as efficient and effective as the player he selected on this night:
“He’s a Detroit Red Wing now.”