The Detroit Red Wings have been known as one of the best organizations when it comes to scouting for years now. We all know the famous late picks they had in the past years, like Pavel Datsyuk (171th), Henrik Zetterberg (210th), and Tomas Holmstrom (257th). They have all played in over 800 NHL games with impressive statistical numbers. Other notables who need to be on the list of Detroit’s draft steals are Jonathan Ericsson (291th), Kyle Quincey (132nd) and Valtteri Filppula (95th). The team also has a current playoff streak of 24 seasons, and last missed the playoffs in the 89/90 season!
Because of the good results in the regular season rankings, the Red Wings usually don’t have a top 15 draft pick. But despite not having a top five pick in the past years, the organization has developed many prospects that turned out to have great NHL careers.
The team doesn’t need to worry about the near future if you have a look at this year’s deep playoff run of the Grand Rapid Griffins, battling Utica in the Conference Final. They also won the Calder Cup during the 2012-13 season. The Griffins have a solid group of young Red Wings prospects who will make the team in the coming years, with some of them having the potential to take on important roles. Let’s have a look at them.
Dylan Larkin: currently the best Red Wings prospect
The Red Wings drafted Larkin last year as number 15 overall. He is probably the most valuable prospect in their system. The University of Michigan forward played with Team USA in this years World Championships in Prague/Ostrava and was signed to a three-year contract by the Red Wings to join Grand Rapids Griffins and support them in the playoffs where he already has made an impact with four points in four games. Larkin is a big forward who works excellent in all three zones, uses his whole body to protect the puck, and uses his powerful skating for energetic zone entries. In the Worlds against some of Europe’s top players he looked very competitive and quite NHL-ready. He should be considered the organization’s top prospect and could make his first NHL games as early as in the coming season.
Dylan Larkin certainly made an impression in the Griffins' 4-2 win over Utica tonight.
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) May 26, 2015
Teemu Pulkkinen, AHL’s leading goal scorer
The Finnish forward was the leading goal scorer in the regular season with 34 goals. He played in only 46 games because of NHL call ups. His impressive season continues in the playoff for the Griffins where he has incredible 14 goals in 14 games. The undersized Finnish forward was selected in 2010 in the 4th Round. Pulkkinen proved he is a very dominant offensive weapon on AHL level but still needs to prove he belongs to the NHL. He had eight points in 31 games for the Red Wings this season and will become a Restricted Free Agent in the summer and it remains questionable if Detroit gives Pulkkinen a contract extension or if he is on their trade block
Anthony Mantha under pressure?
Mantha was selected 20th overall and expectations were high on the Quebec native who had an amazing 120 regular season points with the Val D’or Foreurs last year. This year however he seemed to struggle a bit with picking up only four points in the playoffs so far. His execution hasn’t been the best and he often misses good scoring chances.
With Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi joining the team for the playoffs and posting strong numbers, Mantha might feel some pressure. However the Red Wings have reasons to believe in Mantha. He has great size and is a very powerful skater who has all the tools to become a dangerous offensive weapon. He needs to work on his consistency but he definitely has the potential to be a good player for the Red Wings. The key word here might just be patience and whether the team is willing to give him the needed time.
Plenty of other notable prospects in the system
Other notable names of the Grand Rapid Griffins are the above mentioned Tyler Bertuzzi who was selected in the second round in 2013 and has played a strong playoff campaign. Landon Ferraro is another very interesting player who could find a spot in the Red Wings roster soon. He played already all seven of their post season games. Alexey Marchenko, Andreas Athanasiou, Martin Frk, Tomas Nosek, Andy Miele and Tom McCollum are several other prospects which should be mentioned at this point. Goaltender McCollum is a first rounder from the 2008 draft and had a great season with Grand Rapids and in two games with the Red Wings. Together with Petr Mrazek he is leading solid goaltender depth for Detroit.
Former prospects Tatar and Sheahan with a good season
Two different Detroit picks Tatar and Sheahan are important parts of the team. Tomas Tatar, Detroit’s second round pick in 2009, needed until last year to break out in the NHL. This year he had his most productive season with 56 points. He finally arrived in Detroit and Red Wings fans are looking forward to the next season. Besides Tatar it was Riley Sheahan, another drafted player by Detroit, who had a very strong 14/15 campaign. The first round pick from 2010 notched a career high 36 points and was an important two-way center.
Hats off to the Detroit Red Wings scouting department for producing that many quality players and constantly drafting promising prospects. This is one of the reasons why the Red Wings are having constant success. They are currently on a 24-season playoff streak, missing the playoffs the last time in the 89/90 season. It shows that if a team works well with young players and has a strong scouting staff, a rebuild isn’t necessarily needed. If you pick the right players and give them a chance to develop and have the right personnel, you can have success without drafting a Crosby or Ovechkin after being at the bottom of the standings for several years.
Independent Scout covering European Hockey and Prospects for TheHockeyWriters. Located in Switzerland and blogging on www.scouting-factory.blogspot.com. Opinions on blog are my own