Red Wings Year-End Prospect Update

This past season, the Detroit Red Wings committed to a youth movement, giving the likes of Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Nick Jensen big roles throughout the campaign. It was a breath of fresh air for fans who have seen the organization (over)-rely on veterans in the past.

This also bodes well for Detroit’s waist-deep prospect pool. With the youth infusion mandate, selling pending unrestricted free agents at the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, and other veterans regressing, these prospects could don the winged wheel sooner than in years past.

Let’s take a look at recent Red Wings draft classes and see how those prospects progressed during the 2016-17 season as part of this spring’s too-early offseason series.

2016 Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
1 D Dennis Cholowski 36 GP – 1 G – 11 A – 12 PTS St. Cloud State (NCAA) 1
2 RW Givani Smith 64 GP – 26 G – 18 A – 44 PTS Guelph Storm (OHL)1
2 D Filip Hronek 59 GP – 14 G – 47 A – 61 PTS Saginaw Spirit (OHL)* *1
4 D Alfons Malmstrom 38 GP – 2 G – 3 A – 5 PTS Orebro HK (SuperElit)
5 D Jordan Sambrook 61 GP – 15 G – 25 A – 40 PTS Erie Otters (OHL)
6 G Filip Larsson 31 GP – 2.24 GAA – .925 SV% Djurgardens IF (SuperElit)
7 LW Mattias Elfstrom 36 GP – 18 G – 25 A – 43 PTS Malmo (SuperElit)2

*Played in this year’s World Junior Championships
1Also played for Grand Rapids (AHL)
2Also played for Malmo (SweHL) and IK Pantern (Allsvenskan)

After solid post-draft seasons, both Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek graduated to the Griffins for the conclusion of the AHL season. Despite not putting up staggering offensive numbers, Cholowski was positionally sound and held his ground as a true freshman at St. Cloud State. Hronek, on the other hand, surprised many by producing fantastic numbers right away in his first OHL season. He’s also earned ice time—over Cholowski—while with the Griffins.

Filip Hronek of the Detroit Red Wings.
Filip Hronek (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Fellow second-round pick Givani Smith did not score as much as his draft year, but evolved as a more well-rounded forward. He also garnered a tryout agreement with the Griffins to play with the AHL team down the stretch.

Selected in the fifth round, Jordan Sambrook is an intriguing defenseman to watch. The right-handed blueliner increased his point total from 27 during his draft year to 40 this season, including 15 goals. His Erie Otters are still in the OHL playoffs and the extra, high-intensity hockey will bode well for Sambrook’s personal development.

It will be interesting to see how Mattias Elfstrom performs next season when he is likely playing in Sweden’s top league full-time. He tore it up this year for Malmo’s SuperElit team, as did Filip Larsson for Djurgarden’s SuperElit squad.

2015 Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
1 RW Evgeny Svechnikov 72 GP – 19 G – 28 A – 47 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1
3 D Vili Saarijarvi 34 GP – 11 G – 20 A – 31 PTS Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)*
4 G Joren van Pottelberghe 17 GP – 2.63 GAA – .906 SV% Davos HC (Swiss)*
5 C Chase Pearson 36 GP – 14 G – 8 A – 22 PTS Maine (NCAA)
6 D Patrick Holway 33 GP – 4 G – 9 A – 13 PTS Maine (NCAA)
7 LW Adam Marsh 27 GP – 9 G – 14 A – 23 PTS Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)2

*Played in this year’s World Junior Championships
1Also played for the Red Wings
2Also played for the Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

It was great to see Evgeny Svechnikov appear in a few games for the Red Wings this season. After starting out slow with Grand Rapids, the young Russian really picked up his play to earn the call-up.

When compared with other recent Griffins, Svechnikov’s first year in the AHL looks promising for the future:

Player AHL Rookie Year GP G A PTS PPG
Evgeny Svechnikov 2016-17 74 20 31 51 0.69
Anthony Mantha 2014-15 62 15 18 33 0.53
Gustav Nyquist 2011-12 56 22 36 58 1.04
Tomas Tatar 2009-10 58 16 16 32 0.55

The three elder players have all found success of varying degrees in Detroit. It should be noted, though, that each of these forwards plays his own style of hockey and offers differing skill packages.

Detroit’s five other draft picks—Vili Saarijarvi, Joren van Pottelberghe, Chase Pearson, Patrick Holway, and Adam Marsh—also had strong seasons – great news for Red Wings fans. Saarijarvi recovered nicely from a preseason injury and has been an offensive force from the Steelheads’ blue line. In Switzerland, van Pottelberghe was sturdy in his first professional season and had a great World Junior Championship tournament for the Swiss.

Vili Saarijarvi of the Detroit Red Wings.
Vili Saarijarvi (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Both Pearson and Holway had excellent freshman seasons with the University of Maine. Pearson—a 6-foot-2 center—finished second on the team in goals, scoring 14 in 36 games. Holway’s 13 points ranked second among their rearguards. Both will likely spend the next few years in school, unlike Cholowski.

Seventh-round pick Adam Marsh has the ability to score—he had 34 points in 41 combined games for the QMJHL’s Islanders and Val d’Or Foreurs—but is still racking up penalty minutes. If Marsh can channel his aggression into smarter hockey, he could become a late-round sleeper for the Red Wings.

2014 Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
1 C Dylan Larkin 80 GP – 17 G – 15 A – 32 PTS Red Wings
3 C Dominic Turgeon 69 GP – 6 G – 12 A – 18 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
4 C Christoffer Ehn 52 GP – 4 G – 9 A – 13 PTS Frolunda HC (SweHL)
5 G Chase Perry 28 GP – 3.35 GAA – .906 SV% RPI (NCAA)
6 C Julius Vahatalo 45 GP – 3 G – 4 A – 7 PTS TPS Turku (SM-liiga)1
7 C Axel Holmstrom 16 GP – 1 G – 1 A – 2 PTS Skelleftea AIK (SweHL)2
7 LW Alexander Kadeykin 41 GP – 7 G – 8 A – 15 PTS Yaroslavl (KHL)

1Also played for TuTo Turku (Mestis)
2Also played for the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)

For a review of Dylan Larkin’s season, go here. Other than Larkin, the 2014 draft class appears to be comprised of developmental picks.

Dominic Turgeon is learning the professional game in Grand Rapids but has the potential to become a two-way, bottom-six center in the NHL. He was recently joined by both Axel Holmstrom and Christoffer Ehn after they signed tryout agreements with the Griffins. Holmstrom was injured for most of the 2016-17 season, but got into a few AHL games, registering two points in seven games, and appearing in all of Grand Rapids’ playoff games thus far. Ehn, 21, had a career season with Frolunda, topping his previous season-high point total of five. He recently signed an entry-level deal with the Red Wings as well.

In the KHL, Alex Kadeykin played sparingly for Yaroslavl, but did manage to contribute 15 points in what’s likely the second-strongest league in the world. He could also become a late-round steal from Russia, much like Alexey Marchenko was a few years back.

Julius Vahatalo had a similar season to Kadeykin in Finland’s top league: little ice time, but some production. He’s a massive forward, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 192 pounds. The 22-year-old still needs seasoning, much like goaltender Chase Perry. After enrolling at RPI as a sophomore, Perry earned the starting job with the struggling team. He still has two years of NCAA eligibility to hone his game.

2013 Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
1 LW Anthony Mantha 60 GP – 17 G – 19 A – 36 PTS Red Wings1
2 C Zach Nastasiuk 47 GP – 13 G – 21 A – 34 PTS Toledo Walleye (ECHL)1
2 RW Tyler Bertuzzi 46 GP – 11 G – 24 A – 35 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)2
3 C Mattias Janmark N/A Dallas Stars
4 LW David Pope 34 GP – 13 G – 18 A – 31 PTS Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
5 D Mitch Wheaton N/A St. Francis Xavier (CIS)
6 D Marc McNulty N/A Acadia (CIS)
7 RW Hampus Melen 25 GP – 12 G – 20 A – 32 PTS Morrums (Swe. Divison 2)

1Also played for the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
2Also played for the Red Wings

For a review of Anthony Mantha’s season, go here.

Though he’s only 22 years old, Zach Nastasiuk may be considered a draft bust – or at least still a developmental pick. The former second-rounder struggled to hold down an AHL job this season and is not part of the Griffins’ playoff roster.

Zach Nastasiuk of the Detroit Red Wings.
Zach Nastasiuk (David Chan)

Tyler Bertuzzi, on the other hand, is progressing nicely and could earn a full-time, bottom-six role with the Red Wings next season. This season, Bertuzzi topped his AHL point total from the previous season by seven points…in 23 fewer games. He looked a little wide-eyed with Detroit, but isn’t far away from adapting to the NHL pace.

Left wing David Pope had a breakthrough campaign with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, improving from nine points during the 2015-16 season to an astounding 31 this past year. Now on the Mavericks’ top line, Pope will look to top those numbers next year as a senior.

Apart from Hampus Melen, none of Detroit’s other 2013 draft picks are with the organization. Mattias Janmark is now in Dallas as a result of the much-maligned Erik Cole deal. In addition, former WHLers Mitch Wheaton and Marc McNulty were not tendered contracts within two years of being selected, making them free agents. As for Melen, has floundered around various levels in Sweden and will not factor into the Red Wings’ future, but is still their “property” for now.

2012 Draft Class

Rd Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
2 RW Martin Frk 65 GP – 27 G – 23 A – 50 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1
3 G Jake Paterson 49 GP – 2.28 GAA – .918 SV% Toledo Walleye (ECHL)
4 LW Andreas Athanasiou 64 GP – 18 G – 11 A – 29 PTS Red Wings
5 LW Mike McKee 21 GP – 2 G – 2 A – 4 PTS Western Michigan (NCAA)2
6 D James de Haas 37 GP – 7 G – 22 A – 29 PTS Clarkson (NCAA)
7 LW Rasmus Bodin 26 GP – 1 G – 2 A – 3 PTS Brunflo (Swe. Division 1)

1Also played for the Carolina Hurricanes
2Also played for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL)

For a review of Andreas Athanasiou’s season, go here.

A flight from Detroit to Grand Rapids with a two-week layover in Raleigh sounds brutal, but that’s essentially the route Martin Frk took to join the Griffins. With his booming shot as his most appealing trait, the Carolina Hurricanes claimed Frk off the waiver wire from Detroit, but only dressed the Czech winger for two games before placing him back on waivers. In those two games, Frk failed to record a point, but found his scoring touch in Grand Rapids after the Red Wings reclaimed him.

Martin Frk of the Detroit Red Wings.
Martin Frk (Ross Bonander/THW)

Unless Frk signs with a European team this summer or makes the Red Wings out of camp next season, expect the same scenario for him: lost on waivers and/or producing in the AHL. If Frk makes it back to Grand Rapids next year, he’ll likely be joined by goaltender Jake Paterson, who will have graduated from the ECHL. With Petr Mrazek entrenched as the starter, Jimmy Howard’s status in limbo, and Jared Coreau signed to an NHL contract, it’s safe to say that the former third-round pick will have a shot at the AHL starting job.

Paterson, who will be 23 on Wednesday, started for most of the 2016-17 season with the Toledo Walleye in his second pro year. He’s not overly large in net—standing six-foot-one—and does not presently have the quickness, rebound control, or vision to be an NHLer. Paterson still has time to develop though – it took Coreau until age 26 to reach the NHL.

Mike McKee and Rasmus Bodin are long shots to reach the NHL. McKee was drafted as a defenseman but was converted to forward at Western Michigan by coach Andy Murray. His lack of foot speed and nearly non-existent offensive abilities make McKee a likely career minor-leaguer. As for Bodin, he—like Melen—has bounced around Sweden’s lower-level leagues and isn’t in the Red Wings’ plans going forward.

An intriguing prospect to watch, however, is James de Haas. After spending the past four years at Clarkson, de Haas is set to graduate after a terrific senior season. Though he’ll likely need time to develop in the AHL like Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen, de Haas’ mobility, offensive instincts, and size give him a good chance to crack the Hockeytown lineup someday. Detroit will need to sign him to an entry-level contract first.

Undrafted Free Agents/Acquired Via Trade

Pos Name 2016-17 Stats 2016-17 Team
D Dan Renouf 67 GP – 3 G – 13 A – 16 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1
G Jared Coreau 33 GP – 2.33 GAA – .917 SV% Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1
D Joe Hicketts 73 GP – 7 G – 27 A – 34 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
D Robbie Russo 58 GP – 7 G – 25 A – 32 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1
LW Dylan Sadowy 38 GP – 4 G – 2 A – 6 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)2
C Tomas Nosek 51 GP –15 G – 26 A – 41 PTS Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)1

1Also played for the Red Wings
2Also played for the Toledo Walleye (ECHL)

For a review of Tomas Nosek’s NHL season, go here. For reviews of Dan Renouf, Robbie Russo, and Jared Coreau’s respective NHL seasons, go here.

Dan Renouf’s NHL call-up was a bit of a surprise, but the young defenseman did the job for the Red Wings. However, with Cholowski, Hronek, Saarijarvi, and de Haas joining the Griffins full-time next season, Renouf will need to have a fantastic camp next season or his stay in Michigan could be over.

In net, Jared Coreau didn’t solidify his status as an NHL goaltender during his time with the Red Wings but has proven to be an effective AHL goalie. A stand-out playoff run with the Griffins could alter his perception, though.

After dominating the WHL, the Red Wings were curious to see how undersized Joe Hicketts would perform at the AHL level. In his first season, Hicketts fit in well, held his ground, and contributed offensively. His 34 points topped all Grand Rapids defensemen – two more than Robbie Russo, who spent one-third of his 2016-17 with Detroit.

Joe Hicketts of the Detroit Red Wings.
Joe Hicketts (Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Also in his first professional season, Dylan Sadowy struggled to stay in the Griffins’ lineup. He’ll likely have a larger role next year when he’s a year older and the likes of Bertuzzi, Svechnikov, and Tomas Nosek could be with the Red Wings. Nosek’s play on Detroit’s fourth line was adequate, but he’ll need to contribute more offensively next year to stick around.

For more information on prospects playing with the Grand Rapids Griffins, follow fellow THW writer Tom Mitsos for up-to-the-minute reporting as he covers the Griffins during their playoff run.

What do you think of the Detroit Red Wings’ prospect pool? Promising or plain? Comment below with your thoughts.