What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson, Tony Wolak, and Raymond Harrison are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
We’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about the positive moves the Red Wings have been making. Since the return of Steve Yzerman, fans find themselves actually believing the team could be something great. Even amidst all the solid draft picks, free agency moves, and front office shifts, it’s hard to forget a few of the not too distant blunders.
Being heavily stocked with draft picks doesn’t guarantee a team’s success developmentally. Like many teams, Detroit fell victim to draft day duds in recent years. So, to put a little wicked twist Detroit’s recent successes, The Grind Line decided to rewind to our most underwhelming picks of the last few seasons. Not everyone has a draft-day deal they loathe to remember – but we definitely have some picks that we’re still scratching our heads about.
Rachel Anderson – Dennis Cholowski
Denis Cholowski was (and likely still is) a very anticipated defenseman. Despite the accolades and said anticipation, I was less than thrilled with the selection. He was Detroit’s first pick in the 2016 draft class and has little development to show for the last three seasons. By comparison, fellow 2016 draftee, Filip Hronek, has dominated the Detroit defensive pool.
The most disappointing part of the selection for me was primarily that he is a clunky and inefficient skater. These things can be worked on of course, but in the very early stages of development, Detroit’s eyes should have been more NHL-ready focused in terms of picks. His biggest drawback is that he’s not forward-thinking – literally. He doesn’t have an offensive mind and many times, it results in him chasing a rush into the defensive zone trying to make up ground rather than holding the blue line in the first place.
Tony Wolak: Givani Smith
Though there’s still time for Givani Smith to develop into a middle-six power forward, his selection is already looking like a bust. Smith struggled during his first season in the AHL, producing only 13 points in 64 games. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as he never averaged a point per game in the OHL.
Choosing Smith feels even more frustrating when you look at the two players drafted immediately after him: Samuel Girard and Carter Hart. Both of those players could have been major building blocks in Detroit’s rebuild. Instead, the Red Wings came away with a fringe NHLer who is quickly being surpassed on Detroit’s prospect depth chart.
Draft Day Trade Dud: Trading Up for Dominic Turgeon
Grab a ginger ale before reading further.
Back in 2014, the Red Wings moved up from No. 76 to No. 63 to draft Dominic Turgeon, who was just coming off of a 31-point season in the WHL. It cost the Red Wings an additional third-round pick in 2015 to do so.
Fast-forward to today. Turgeon has had a couple of cups of coffee at the NHL level but doesn’t look to be more than a replacement-level player. He can kill penalties and play with energyas a fourth-liner, but that’s about it.
The player picked with Detroit’s No. 76 pick? Elvis Merzlikins, one of Columbus’ top goaltending prospects. Two picks later: Ilya Sorokin, who has dominated the KHL the past few seasons and just moved over to North America. And at No. 79, Brayden Point. Yes, the two-time All-Star who managed to score 91 points during his draft year – a full 60 points more than Turgeon while playing against the same competition.
Five years later, this deal doesn’t look very good and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Raymond Harrison – Michael Rasmussen
I may be being critical of a draft pick that may end up being a reliable NHL player. Rasmussen has a single season of NHL experience under his belt, and while it was full of growing pains, he is only 20-years-old.
Nevertheless, the Red Wings’ management team were infatuated with size at the 2017 Entry Draft, which resulted in taking Rasmussen with the ninth overall pick. He can still develop into a top-tier power forward, but the scouting department left genuine skill on the board. They passed on players like Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, Gabriel Vilardi, and Erik Brannstrom.
At the time, that was the highest draft pick the Red Wings had since 1990. I still have faith that Rasmussen will be a net-front terror, but as of right now, there are a lot of question marks surrounding a relatively high pick.
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.