As a rebuilding franchise, the Detroit Red Wings have amassed an impressive prospect pool over the last few years. Steve Yzerman has drafted 23 players since rejoining the organization and is set to bring in at least 12 more through the 2021 NHL Draft.
While Detroit’s prospect pipeline has grown in quantity since Yzerman’s arrival, it has also progressed with respect to overall quality as well. This holds true even when factoring in the graduations of Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen, and Dennis Cholowski.
Let’s take a look at the Red Wings’ top 25 prospects, starting at No. 25 and working our way down to Detroit’s cornerstones.
25. Sam Stange – RW
- University of Wisconsin (NCAA): 29 GP – 6 G – 1 A – 7 PTS
Detroit’s 2020 fourth-round pick struggled to earn meaningful playing time as a freshman on a deep Wisconsin team. However, he was able to find the back of the net six times using his lethal release. With several Badgers off to the professional ranks, Stange will have the opportunity to lock down a top-six role next season.
24. Jan Bednar – G
- Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL): 12 GP – 3.62 GAA – .894 SV%
- HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czech): 5 GP – 4.16 GAA – .867 SV%
Splitting his time between the top Czech league and the QMJHL, Bednar grew positionally this season. Yes, his counting stats are gaudy—there’s no denying that—but the netminder continued to refine his game from a positional standpoint – honing his first-class athleticism to be more precise in the crease. A full season’s worth of practices and games will certainly be beneficial for Bednar next year.
23. Gustav Berglund – RD
- Västerås (HockeyAllsvenskan): 31 GP – 0 G – 5 A – 5 PTS
In his first full season in Sweden’s second-tier professional league, Berglund did not record a goal, but solidified a spot in Västerås’ lineup. He also appeared in one game for Sweden in the 2021 World Junior Championship (WJC). Berglund will continue to play in HockeyAllsvenskan next season as a member of Mora IK.
22. Otto Kivenmäki – LW/C
- Ässät (Liiga): 29 GP – 6 G – 12 A – 18 PTS
Detroit’s seventh-round pick from 2018 missed a good amount of the 2020-21 season with an injury, but still managed to put together an impressive campaign. Kivenmäki skated mostly on the wing for Ässät and his 0.62 points per game ranked 45th among Liiga forwards who played 20-plus games.
“This season, in about 16 minutes of average ice time per game, [Kivenmäki] has positively influenced Ässät’s play at both ends, driving results and possession.”–Scott Wheeler (from ‘Wheeler’s 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings: No. 4 Detroit Red Wings’ – The Athletic – 2/7/21)
Kivenmäki will play for Pelicans in Liiga next season.
21. Alex Cotton – RD
- Lethbridge (WHL): 24 GP – 7 G – 19 A – 26 PTS
- Canmore (AJHL): 2 GP – 1 G – 2 A – 3 PTS
When I joined Fantasy Hockey Life to recap the Red Wings’ season, podcast host Victor Nuno mentioned Cotton as a sleeper prospect – something I was planning to do myself. The offensive-minded, right-handed defenseman has a cannon from the point and could develop into a third-pairing, power play specialist. The defensive side of his game needs work, though. Cotton will get a chance to refine his defensive skill set next season as the go-to defenseman for Lethbridge.
20. Albin Grewe – LW
- Djurgårdens (SHL): 39 GP – 3 G – 3 A – 6 PTS
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 11 GP – 0 G – 2 A – 2 PTS
After an unspectacular campaign in the SHL, Grewe joined the Grand Rapids Griffins for an 11-game cameo to close out the 2020-21 season.
“I think his ‘grittiness’ was a bit hidden at the AHL level,” Access Hockey MI’s Rachel Anderson told me. “He wasn’t pushing as hard as I expected but the adaptation from one league to the next could have been more than he anticipated it would be.”
Next year, Grewe will skate for Ilves in Finland’s Liiga.
19. Filip Larsson – G
- Frederikshavn (Denmark): 10 GP – 3.82 GAA – .889 SV%
- Almtuna (HockeyAllsvenskan): 6 GP – 3.54 GAA – .883 SV%
Plain and simple: Larsson needs ice time. The former fast-riser bounced around European leagues this season and did not produce favorable numbers due to inconsistent playing time. He also missed a few weeks after breaking his hand.
At this point, Larsson hasn’t been able to secure consistent playing time over the past two seasons – something goalies need in order to develop. He could benefit from a fresh start in Grand Rapids, though he’ll have competition in the Griffins’ crease.
18. Chase Pearson – C
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 28 GP – 8 G – 14 A – 22 PTS
It was a career year for Pearson in Grand Rapids. The center matched last season’s point total (22) in 31 fewer games, which certainly bodes well for his future. If Pearson is going to carve out an NHL role, it’s likely going to be one on the fourth line – a defensive specialist similar to Luke Glendening. Having offensive touch to go along with defensive awareness gives Pearson a better chance of making Detroit’s roster – potentially as soon as next season.
17. Cross Hanas – LW
- Lincoln (USHL): 27 GP – 3 G – 13 A – 16 PTS
- Portland (WHL): 6 GP – 2 G – 2 A – 4 PTS
After the WHL pushed back its start date, Hanas joined the USHL’s Lincoln Stars and struggled to produce.
“He has continued to play a thorny, aggressive, forechecking style that keeps him involved in the play one way or another; and he occasionally flashes some good puck skill in dashes to the front of the net. But I also think the tempo and tenacity that he plays with is more eye-catching than effective, and I think that fooled some evaluators into noticing him a lot. He just hasn’t taken steps forward and can’t seem to score or generate the chances needed to.”–Scott Wheeler (from ‘Wheeler: Risers and fallers from the 2020 NHL Draft’ – The Athletic – 4/1/21)
Let’s hope Hanas takes a step forward next year playing a full season in the WHL. If not, the Red Wings might have a bust on their hands.
16. Donovan Sebrango – LD
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 31 GP – 0 G – 4 A – 4 PTS
- HK Levice (Slovakia): 5 GP – 1 G – 2 A – 3 PTS
Due to the OHL cancelling its season, the Red Wings got to see Sebrango in Grand Rapids ahead of schedule. The 19-year-old didn’t look out of place, either.
“The coaching staff was very intentional about him playing in all situations – even strength, shorthanded, power play,” Anderson stated. “I liked his demeanor too. He’s a controlled player, but has a tenacity that is really fun to watch.”
Anderson also praised Sebrango’s decision-making and skating. Plus, he’s an all-around good guy:
15. Elmer Söderblom – LW
- Frölunda (SHL): 28 GP – 3 G – 2 A – 5 PTS
- Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell): 4 GP – 2 G – 2 A – 4 PTS
It was nice to see Söderblom thrive during the WJC for Sweden. The towering forward did not look out of place among the world’s best U20 players and provided us with a few memorable highlights along the way.
Söderblom still needs to learn how to use his large frame against stronger players. His skating and decision-making need refinement as well. Another season in the SHL will certainly give him plenty of opportunity to work on these attributes. He should be in line for more ice time next year with Frölunda.
14. Givani Smith – LW/RW
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 25 GP – 9 G – 6 A – 15 PTS
- Detroit (NHL): 16 GP – 1 G – 3 A – 4 PTS
In Detroit, Smith was either a physical presence with a nose for the net or practically invisible. But in Grand Rapids, the 23-year-old winger looked the part of a complete player.
“He’s learned when strength and skill are needed, and when there’s a demand for more of a physical style of play,” Anderson shared.
Smith is best served as a depth forward who plays with high energy, brings the ruckus, and can chip in around 10 goals per season. He’ll require waivers next year, so expect Smith to stick with the Red Wings and skate on a line with Glendening and Adam Erne if he has a solid training camp.
13. Eemil Viro – LD
- TPS (Liiga): 53 GP – 4 G – 10 A – 14 PTS
The more I watch Viro, the more I think he’s going to be a solid defenseman for the Red Wings. His offensive game improved this season – Viro produced 14 points in 53 Liiga games after only three in 29 contests last year. Plus, he stepped up his game once TPS reached the playoffs.
Expect Viro to play another season in Finland before coming over to North America. He just signed his entry-level contract (ELC), so there’s plenty of time for the 19-year-old to refine his game and become a better, more well-rounded professional.
12. Keith Petruzzelli – G
- Quinnipiac University (NCAA): 29 GP – 1.89 GAA – .926 SV%
Arguably Detroit’s best goaltending prospect, Petruzzelli shined during the 2020-21 season en route to an impressive senior campaign. The netminder was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award and started every game for Quinnipiac.
Considering the fact that Petruzzelli has not signed an ELC to this point, it’s likely that he returns for a fifth NCAA season. The NCAA granted student-athletes the ability to do so in response to COVID-19 impacting so many collegiate seasons. Such a decision makes sense, as the Griffins will likely have Larsson, Kaden Fulcher, and potentially Victor Brattström and others competing for playing time next year.
11. Gustav Lindström – RD
- Almtuna (HockeyAllsvenskan): 20 GP – 0 G – 11 A – 11 PTS
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 13 GP – 0 G – 3 A – 3 PTS
- Detroit (NHL): 13 GP – 0 G – 3 A – 3 PTS
Still just 22, Lindström had a great stint with the Red Wings to cap off the 2020-21 season. Point total aside, the Swedish blueliner carved out a role as a third-pairing penalty killer, allowing just 35.18 shots per 60 while shorthanded. For comparison, Marc Staal played the most shorthanded minutes of any defenseman on the roster and gave up 62.29 shots per 60.
In Grand Rapids, Lindström appeared to be more confident offensively.
“He was never one to ditch the puck and could place passes well,” Anderson shared. “He’s improved in that regard and added an offensive edge to his mindset as a bit of a playmaker.”
Like Smith, Lindström will require waivers next season, so expect him to stick around in Detroit.
10. Robert Mastrosimone – LW/C
- Boston University (NCAA): 15 GP – 3 G – 5 A – 8 PTS
Good news: Mastrosimone was selected to join the United States’ WJC team. Bad news: He tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the tournament, plus a chunk of his NCAA campaign.
But when Mastrosimone was in the lineup, he was a constant threat, even if his point total doesn’t reflect it. “His wrister is dangerous from mid-range, he works harder than anyone else on the ice to win battles and races, and he’s got quick hands in traffic,” noted Wheeler.
9. Antti Tuomisto – RD
- Denver University (NCAA): 24 GP – 2 G – 9 A – 11 PTS
Tuomisto didn’t set the world on fire during his freshman year at Denver, but did show flashes of his top-four potential. The defenseman has an absolute cannon from the point and can get shots through – something that’s not always a given for blueliners. His skating, though, will be a point of emphasis as Tuomisto develops at the NCAA level.
“He’s a big man, so it’s not easy moving a big body around. It’s just a lot of limbs to get moving around the rink in a coordinated way, and I think Antti is a good athlete, and is a coordinated kid and so I just think as he adds strength, his knee bend, his ankle flexion, his hip drop, he’s only going to get more powerful and be able to close on people even more.”–Denver University coach David Carle (from ‘Red Wings defense pipeline: How Seider and 16 more prospects fit into the rebuild’ – The Athletic – 2/16/21)
The Red Wings expect Tuomisto to remain at Denver for the time-being so he can refine his game under Carle’s tutelage.
8. Jared McIsaac – LD
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 10 GP – 0 G – 2 A – 2 PTS
- HPK (Liiga): 1 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 PTS
Another year, another injury for McIsaac. The 2018 second-round pick injured his shoulder during his first Liiga game, prompting an early return to North America to rehab. That said, McIsaac was able to get in 10 games with the Griffins before their season ended. And even though he missed most of the 2020-21 season, he was given a great opportunity to close out the year strong.
“I think that he did show glimpses of what he is: two-way guy that can contribute offensively. Things happen a little bit quicker at this level, so again, the more you’re put in those situations, the better served you’re going to be in the future. And we tried to put him in those situations: PP, PK. Hopefully he’ll take those experiences and be better for them next season.”–Griffins coach Ben Simon (from ‘Jared McIsaac’s resilience from shoulder woes could pay off for Red Wings: ‘He’s got a bright future’ – The Athletic – 5/13/21)
7. Theodor Niederbach – C/RW
- Frölunda (SHL): 20 GP – 3 G – 2 A – 5 PTS
- Frölunda J20 (J20 Nationell): 19 GP – 13 G – 22 A – 35 PTS
- MODO (HockeyAllsvenskan): 15 GP – 3 G – 6 A – 9 PTS
After producing obscene numbers at the J20 level, Neiderbach was promoted to the SHL where it took him a handful of games to adapt to the league’s increased pace of play. When you factor in Frölunda’s deep lineup and Niederbach’s limited minutes, his five points in 20 games makes sense. He’ll get the opportunity to establish himself as a top-six SHL forward next season with Frölunda losing a couple key forwards, including Lucas Raymond.
Niederbach also skated in the top-six with Sweden’s WJC team, producing two goals in five games. He was thrust into a larger role after several players were sidelined due to COVID-19.
Able to play both center and on the wing, Niederbach’s calling card is his playmaking ability. With a full summer of training ahead, the forward is a breakout candidate heading into the 2021-22 season – both with Frölunda and Sweden’s 2022 WJC team.
6. William Wallinder – LD
- MODO (HockeyAllsvenskan): 43 GP – 1 G – 5 A – 6 PTS
- MODO J20 (J20 Nationell): 4 GP – 2 G – 4 A – 6 PTS
I just mentioned Niederbach as a breakout candidate – Wallinder is in that same category as well. The defenseman has outstanding mobility and hockey IQ, and that combination could come together to produce an impressive 2021-22 campaign.
“There’s legitimate skill below the surface, and it’s already shining through consistently at the pro level, even if the points haven’t necessarily come,” Wheeler shared while profiling Wallinder. (from ‘The Gifted: The untapped potential of Red Wings prospect William Wallinder’ – The Athletic – 3/31/21)
The defenseman could have progressed even more this season if it wasn’t for testing positive for COVID-19. He was forced to miss the 2021 WJCs and a handful of HockeyAllsvenskan games as a result.
Wallinder will skate for Rögle BK in the SHL next season, replacing Moritz Seider, who is set to join the Red Wings. There, he’ll be able to refine his intriguing skill set against Sweden’s top players.
5. Albert Johansson – LD
- Färjestad BK (SHL): 44 GP – 8 G – 11 A – 19 PTS
The first thing that jumps out about Johansson is his skating. He effortlessly cruises through the neutral zone, leaving opponents in his dust.
“He really joins the rush well, he’s got good sense. … He’s got very good mobility, so the movement on the offensive blue line to be able to change the angle and create some deception, these are some areas (that) we think will just help his offensive production.”–Red Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff (from ‘Red Wings defense pipeline: How Seider and 16 more prospects fit into the rebuild’ – The Athletic – 2/16/21)
Though nothing is official yet, Johansson could join the Griffins for the 2021-22 campaign and continue his development there. He was outstanding in the SHL this season and could benefit from playing against stronger competition on a smaller ice sheet.
4. Jonatan Berggren – LW/RW
- Skellefteå AIK (SHL): 49 GP – 12 G – 33 A – 45 PTS
Finally, Berggren had a healthy season – and it clearly showed. The 2018 second-round pick torched the SHL with 45 points in 49 games, ranking sixth in total points, sixth in points per game, and first in those categories among U21 players.
According to Detroit’s press release announcing his entry-level contract, “Berggren became only the 13th player in SHL history to compile 40-plus points in a season at age 20 or younger, and the first since Elias Pettersson accomplished the feat in 2017-18.” That’s great company to be in for the young forward.
Berggren’s vision, skating, and playmaking were on full display this season, resulting in several highlight reel plays making their rounds on social media. He was excellent when breaking the puck out, swiftly darting through the neutral zone and crossing the opposing blue line in a controlled manner to establish possession. Berggren will certainly be an asset for zone entries and on the power play next season, whether that’s in Detroit or Grand Rapids.
3. Joe Veleno – C
- Malmö (SHL): 46 GP – 11 G – 9 A – 20 PTS
- Detroit (NHL): 5 GP – 1 G – 0 A – 1 PTS
- Grand Rapids (AHL): 4 GP – 1 G – 2 A – 3 PTS
This season, Veleno continued to develop his two-way game, whether that was in Sweden, Grand Rapids, or Detroit. He’s just about ready for a full-time NHL role at this point.
“He’s able to separate better, he looks confident with the puck,” noted Horcoff earlier this season. (from ‘Red Wings forward pipeline: How Lucas Raymond and 19 more prospects fit into the rebuild’ – The Athletic – 3/2/21) “I think overall his game’s taken a nice step.”
Veleno impressed during his five-game stint in Detroit. He was able to drive play offensively and didn’t commit too many defensive gaffes. Additionally, he looked comfortable at center, which isn’t always the case with rookies.
Depending on how the Seattle Kraken expansion draft shakes out, Veleno could start the 2021-22 campaign with the Red Wings in a middle-six role. More time in the AHL wouldn’t be detrimental to his development, though. In Grand Rapids, Veleno would be the Griffins’ 1C, logging heavy minutes and playing in all situations.
2. Lucas Raymond – RW
- Frölunda (SHL): 34 GP – 6 G – 12 A – 18 PTS
Though his point total doesn’t jump off the page, Raymond had a solid draft-plus-one season in the SHL. He was physically stronger and asserted himself more at both ends of the ice.
“His curl-and-drag wrister now rips off of his stick with more oomph. He looks stronger on the puck and more powerful through his forward pushes and his crossovers (the footwork has always been there, but it lacked that pull-away gear), helping him hang onto pucks longer, play through contact and gain the line with more speed. And the rest of his game looks like vintage Raymond still.”–Scott Wheeler
Raymond also put up five points in as many games serving as the centerpiece of Sweden’s shorthanded WJC team. His contributions continued off the ice, too.
After signing his ELC, the fourth-overall pick from the 2020 draft is expected to skate in North America next season – likely with the Griffins as he continues to build up his strength. Playing in the AHL will be a great learning experience for Raymond – he’ll need to adjust to a smaller ice surface and make decisions quicker. Given his impressive hockey IQ, Raymond should be able to adapt rather quickly.
1. Moritz Seider – RD
- Rögle BK (SHL): 41 GP – 7 G – 21 A – 28 PTS
The hype is real.
Seider was named the SHL Defenseman of the Year after a dominant 2020-21 season. His 0.68 points per game ranks second all-time among U21 blueliners in the SHL, trailing only Nils Lundkvist of the New York Rangers (0.70). When combined with his downright mean style of play in the defensive zone and two-steps-ahead hockey IQ in the neutral zone, Seider’s recent offensive outburst gives the Red Wings their best all-around defenseman since Niklas Kronwall.
“There’s just a new aggression about him,” Wheeler noted. “It’s even evident defensively in how decisive he is, but it’s most evident offensively. And he has struck that balance without giving up some of the safety of his game.”
Seider played in all situations for Rögle and gained more confidence with the puck as the season went on. He added five more points in 13 playoff games and was also named to Germany’s World Championship team.
As for what comes next, Yzerman shared some insight during his year-end press conference.
“Is he ready to play in the NHL next year? Based on his size and his strength, I think so. But we’ll see. He’ll be back for training camp next year and (we’ll) just see how he does at that point. We think he’s a very good prospect and he’s got a great attitude and tremendous potential, so we’ll see how he does through training camp, through the preseason and just continue to go one step at a time.”–Steve Yzerman
Not too shabby for someone who was shocked to be taken sixth-overall in 2019.
Not only is Detroit’s prospect pipeline deep, it’s well-diversified too. The depth on defense is particularly impressive.
Here’s how the top prospects break down by position:
- Center: 3
- Left Wing: 7
- Right Wing: 2
- Left Defense: 5
- Right Defense: 5
- Goalie: 3
Surely, this will change after the 2021 draft. But in the meantime, Red Wings fans can feel good about the current status of Detroit’s prospect pipeline, which only stands to improve in the near future.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.