As you know, the Red Wings prospect pool is remarkably deep and full of shining talents. The big European names are typically Simon Edvinsson, William Wallinder, Jonatan Berggren, Elmer Soderblom, and Albert Johansson. Looking at North America, there’s Sebastian Cossa and Carter Mazur. However, these names don’t even make a dent in the list of prospects that give this organization so much depth.
Although some of the lesser-talked-about prospects are new pickups from the 2022 NHL Draft, there are others that have been flying under the radar for a while. Let’s take a look at three of these prospects we might not be as familiar with, both new and old.
Jan Bednar has spent the last two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Previously, the 19-year-old played in a handful of Czech leagues and represented his country in international junior championships including the World Junior Championship (WJC) in 2018 (U18) and 2019 (U20). He most recently played for Czechia in the 2022 WJC in Edmonton, where he had a .851 save percentage (SV%), one assist, and a 4.00 goals-against average (GAA) through three games, finishing with one win and two losses.
Bednar was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft at 104th overall. Going into his draft year, he was one of the top 10 goalies available, ranked fifth overall by Mike G. Morreale and second out of all international goalies by NHL Central Scouting. Standing at 6-foot-4, he’s a big guy to have in goal, which is always attractive in the drafting process and likely what made him stand out in the later rounds. He describes himself as a calm goalie who is decently athletic and needs speed, while scouts say he’s confident, sound, and has quick glove skills (from ‘Jan Bednar joins list of goalies eying future with Red Wings’, Mlive, 11/9/20).
His athleticism and raw toolkit are among the best in the class. He’ll post high-flying, free-wheeling saves with windmilled gloves and lunging splits that will wow the crowd and get the job done. There’s no save too out of reach for Bednar to make and no contortion he’s not willing to attempt to knock the puck away from the crease.from ‘2020 Elite Prospects NHL Draft Guide,’ Eliite Hockey Prospects, 2020
Given his age and current skill level, it could be a while before we see Bednar on American Hockey League (AHL) or NHL ice. However, this does not mean that he is not an exciting prospect to keep an eye on. The QMJHL is not nearly as competitive as the well-known North American leagues such as the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), or AHL. His talent is undeniable though, and he has shown that as Czechia fought through the WJC until they fell to Canada in the semifinal round of the tournament.
One of the most recent additions to the Red Wings prospect pool, Lombardi was drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NHL Draft at 113th overall. Not only does he seem to be a solid late-round pick but he also is fighting for the title of “coolest name” in the depth charts. Any time that a strong center can be picked up in the later rounds of the draft, they’re usually a good bet. If these late-round picks don’t pan out to be NHL material, they didn’t come at a premium cost so it’s not a huge loss for the organization.
He’s [Lombardi] a natural playmaker. It’s hard to contain him and get him because he brings second, third, and fourth efforts…He’s hungry. He’s growing and getting stronger and is only going to get bigger.Ted Dent
Currently in the OHL with the Flint Firebirds, Lombardi played 67 games during the 2021-22 season finishing with an impressive tally of 18 goals and 41 assists. Then in the postseason, he continued to be a huge asset on the ice with seven goals and eight assists through 15 games. He also left jaws on the floor at Red Wings training camp last month as he put up a four-point game in the 3v3 tourney. This four-point game not only consisted of a hat trick but also included a Michigan-style goal – talk about a great first impression!
Lombardi is an energetic and competitive player who has been pushing hard over the last season to make up for the time lost due to COVID. Since he was in Flint last season, Kris Draper (Director of Amateur Scouting) was able to see him play a few times, and Lombardi must have left a favorable impression. With a name like that and a great game to go along with it, he was a good find by the Red Wings scouting team.
Drafted 70th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, this Finnish defenseman has perked everyone’s ears up at the WJC this summer. He was easily one of the most outstanding Red Wings prospects in the tournament alongside Carter Mazur and Red Savage of the United States. Eemil Viro has been with TPS of the Finnish Liiga since the 2019-20 season and looks to play the 2022-23 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He signed a three-year, $2.8 million contract with the Red Wings in May of 2021 with a cap hit of $828,333 which runs until the end of the 2024-25 season.
Although he might not be the tallest defenseman in the system standing at 6-foot even, he shoots left-handed and utilizes his body well on the ice. He isn’t a flashy player, but he is reliable and possesses speed as well as great mobility, helping him cover the defensive zone tactfully. Viro is not quite hitting the average height for an NHL defenseman at roughly 6-foot-2, but he’s a player who plays bigger than his stature (from “Red Wings prospect Eemil Viro ready for World Juniors, Grand Rapids,” MLive, 8/9/22).
He’s just a real good defender that brings real good energy and is starting to gain a lot of experience over there. Playing against men every night has been good for him. He’s a guy who’ll come over here next year and take another step forward in our development program.Shawn Horcoff
Viro is not one of those two-way, showstopping defensemen that wow you at both ends of the ice, but he is a solid asset to have on the defensive side. Not every defenseman has to have the strongest offensive game possible, so there is still an important place for those who just hold down the blue line. He is steady and confident in his game, which could be an indicator of future success in the league as a mid to low-pairing defenseman.
Although his name has been circulated a fair amount since he is one of the more recognizable North American prospects, Red Savage is not often talked about in detail. He’s a quieter player and has recently started to shine in the 2022 WJC playing for the United States. He is about to enter his sophomore season at Miami University (Ohio) of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) and is looking for more success than the season prior. As a freshman, he was named NCHC Rookie of the Week four times, which is a league record, and put up six goals and 10 assists.
Savage was drafted 114th overall in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Draft and was in the same class as Carter Mazur. As a center with a strong two-way game, he was a no-brainer pick to take in the fourth round when he was projected to go in the third. What stands out the most about his game is his impact on the penalty kill. Since he is a versatile and speedy center, he is a huge asset when his team is playing a man-down and can also shut down the opposition consistently.
Related: Red Savage – 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile
Although Savage is a remarkably strong two-way player, his offensive side was questioned by some scouts prior to his draft. Having a center that is stronger defensively is not a handicap, but it can leave something to be desired for certain teams or scouts. He isn’t a huge goal scorer or flashy player but he is sneaky and highly skilled.
He’s a hardworking, versatile player…He finishes his checks hard and does a lot of the little things well. He can contribute with the puck but is most likely a bottom-six forward in pro. I thought he was one of (U.S. NTDP’s) more consistent players over the course of the year.(from “Detroit’s Red Savage learned that where you’re picked in the NHL Draft doesn’t define you,” The Athletic, July 24, 2021)
Savage is a player who has been interesting to watch develop and I believe by the end of his college career, he will be looking at a bright future in the AHL. In his sophomore season with Miami, I would expect to see him a bit hotter at the start of the season since he had a good amount of offseason action between prospects camp, the WJC, and the upcoming Red Wings training camp and prospect tournament.
To sum things up, the Red Wings prospect pool is much deeper than it appears at first glance. Not only is there a vast assortment of players at each position, but they are incredibly talented in their own ways. Every single prospect may not have “NHL Material” written all over them but having depth through affiliate teams such as the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye is still beneficial. That being said, having this many talented prospects gives Red Wings fans a lot more hockey to watch, and that’s never a bad thing!