The Grind Line: Discussing Detroit’s Draft Strategy

On June 24th, the Detroit Red Wings will join the 29 other teams at the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York. Already without a third round pick, the Red Wings will need to draft smart this year, starting with the 16th overall pick.

While the newly acquired Dylan Sadowy is essentially a third round pick, the Red Wings could also opt to add draft picks through trades or move some of their remaining picks for roster players. And with the projected 2016-17 salary cap is in flux, the Red Wings could attempt to move salary at the draft.

TSN’s Elliotte Friedman noted that the salary could indeed fall this offseason. THW’s Mike Straw shared Friedman’s report:

The players were told this week when they met at the NHLPA meetings if they don’t vote to increase the salary cap by five percent, there’s a chance it could go down under $70 million next year,” Friedman told Sportsnet. “Not yet decided, but that’s potentially what they’ve been told.

With that being said, Red Wings’ General Manager Ken Holland will be busy at the draft. He should have some idea about Pavel Datsyuk’s future by the draft and could look to deal his cap hit if Datsyuk decides to retire from the NHL. In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, the THW Red Wings coverage team discusses potential first round picks and other transactions the Red Wings could make at the draft.

Tony Wolak: Draft Julien Gauthier, Be Aggressive On Trade Front

With the 16th pick in the draft, the Red Wings are likely to take the best player available or trade down (as usual). If Detroit indeed decides to pick, Val-d’Or’s Julien Gauthier would be a great addition to the organization. Logan Brown and Luke Kunin could also be great picks at 16, but Brown is likely going to his hometown Hurricanes with the 13th pick. Kunin could still be available.

With Gauthier, however, the Red Wings would add instant offense to their collection of recent draft picks. Adding the six-foot-four, right-handed Gauthier to a group that includes Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Evgeny Svechnikov would give Detroit a fantastic offensive future. In 54 games this season for the Foreurs, Gauthier lit the lamp 41 times. He played 14 less games than the prior year, but managed to find the back of the net three more times.

Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings.
(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

On the trade front, Holland should give serious consideration to dealing away Datsyuk’s cap hit if he decides to retire. It has been speculated that the Red Wings would have to give up a lot for another team to take on a $7.5 million cap hit, but that’s highly doubtful. With a salary cap floor, teams like the Hurricanes and Coyotes could struggle to reach the roughly $53 million cap minimum. Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit would count towards the salary cap and the team would not need to pay him at all if he retires.

Additionally, Jimmy Howard could be on the move as well. The market for starting goalies is slim this summer and Howard is one of the best options available. Though the Red Wings could hold onto Howard in an attempt to grow his value, why wait if the price at the draft is right. If the Red Wings packaged Howard, Xavier Ouellet or Alexey Marchenko, and a second round pick (this year or next), perhaps a team like Calgary would part with Dougie Hamilton. Carolina would also be a good trading partner with no clear-cut number one goaltender.

Geoffrey Chiles: Draft Max Jones

The Wings ranked 23rd in the regular season in goals in 2015-2016, scoring 209 times. Prone to 1-goal games and dreadful stretches where they’d fail to score for periods at a time, an injection of offense is sorely needed.

Their pain may soon be eased. That’s where Max Jones comes in.

The Wings are looking to reboot their roster and add some scoring punch, and Jones fits the bill. Fresh off a Memorial Cup with the London Knights, the Wings’ front office is crossing their fingers that the speedy Michigan native is available. The left winger hails from Rochester, MI and is the son of former NHL and University of Michigan alum, Brad Jones. The NHL Central Scouting Service pegged him 11th in their most recent ranking.

Standing at six-foot-three, 205 pounds, Jones put together an explosive year with the Knights: he scored 28 goals and dished out 24 assists for a 52-point campaign, third amongst all OHL rookies.

Jones never quits on a shift. He is constantly moving, using a surprisingly elusive skating ability for a player his size. He relishes physical contact, which got him in some trouble last season. In addition to his skating and motor, he can turn defense into offense. The Wings struggled at generating offense in the neutral zone last season, and Max Jones could be the spark they need. They select 16th overall, and hope Jones falls to them to fill offensive weaknesses.


Jacob Messing: Draft the Best Defenseman Available

Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen
Jake Bean could be available at #16 for the Red Wings. (Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen)

You can read a hundred mock drafts and still watch players rise and fall. When you’re not inside the organization you just don’t know the value teams place on certain players. There are a lot of factors that go into a single pick, including: junior play, recent play, injury history, player size and the depth of the organization at a particular position.

For Detroit, the depth of the defense needs to be addressed and their first-round pick at 16 overall should be used on the best defenseman available­—pending a large slide from a great forward, of course.

The truth is, landing a top-pair defenseman is more difficult than landing a top-six scorer. There’s just more of the latter to go around. With the emergence of Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou and a strong sample from former 2013 first-round pick Anthony Mantha, Detroit appears to have top-six scorers on the horizon.

That’s without mentioning Tyler Bertuzzi and 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov who will join Grand Rapids full-time in 2016-17. Detroit’s depth at forward is just better than the blue line currently. Part of that is due to Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet needing to pass through waivers to return to Grand Rapids this fall.

Some of the top defenseman entering the draft are said to be Olli Juolevi, Jakub Chychrun, Mikhail Sergachyov, Jake Bean, Dante Fabbro, and Charles McAvoy.

If Detroit could find a way to land one of the aforementioned defenders, they could have a top-pair defenseman just a couple of years away from full-time NHL duty, particularly Juolevi, Chychrun, Sergachyov or Bean. Sergachyov is easily the largest of the four, listed at 6-foot-2, 221. However, Fabbro and McAvoy are the only right-handed shooters on the list.

Detroit does have blue line potential in the system with Vili Saarijarvi and Joe Hicketts continuing impressive development. Although both players are listed shorter than 6 feet and less than 180-pounds. That’s not intimidating size if they ever reach the NHL level and neither are impressively defensive minded.

Brandon Peleshok: Draft Luke Kunin

Luke Kunin could be a Detroit Red Wings draft pick.
Luke Kunin (Tom Sorensen/USA Hockey)

The Detroit Red Wings need to restock the shelves at virtually every single position. They have a number of promising wingers, but the team lacks depth at center and on defense, in particular. With the 16th overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Red Wings should use their first-round pick to select Luke Kunin of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Kunin boasts a high hockey IQ, strong playmaking skills and a natural ability to score goals. Through 34 games with the Badgers, the right-handed forward notched 19 goals and 13 assists. In addition to his offensive capabilities, Kunin has shown a commitment to the defensive side of the game as well. The 5’11”, 192lbs forward needs to make improvements to his strength and skating ability, but the all-around package that he offers should be enough intrigue the Red Wings’ brass.

While Kunin is projected to go anywhere from mid-to-late first round, he may have improved his stock at the NHL Combine. THW’s Mark Scheig attended the event this weekend, and discussed players who stood out during the fitness testing. He had the following to say regarding Kunin:

In my mind, Kunin was the biggest standout. He finished in the top 15 in several categories, including first overall in the force plate vertical jump. His leap of 28.98 inches was more than two inches higher than the next best prospect.

Even with his strong showing at the combine, the 19-year-old center should be available when Ken Holland and company step up to the podium on June 24th. While there are several promising options at center and defense in the 10-20 range of the draft, the Wings should take a long look at Kunin.

The Grind Line Mailbag

In next week’s column from The Grind Line, we will be answering offseason questions submitted by our readers. Tweet your questions about the draft, potential trades, and free agency to @THW_RedWings.