Guest Post: 2014 NHL Entry Draft Preview

Editor’s Note: Michael Petrella (@TPLHockey) of the dearly-departed Production Line joins us to offer the latest in his annual series of NHL Entry Draft previews. Any formatting issues are mine, not his.


2014 NHL DRAFT TRUTHS
Generally speaking, the 2014 Draft isn’t as “deep” as we’ve come to expect. It’s not as strong as last year’s — and don’t even get me started on the 2015 Draft, which is shaping up to the best in a generation. The top of this year’s Draft board is every bit as talented as you’d hope, but there’s a very sharp drop into the second tier.

Let’s put it this way: there’s no Anthony Mantha available at 20th overall this June.

While the top player in the Draft may very well be a defenseman (Aaron Ekblad), the bulk of the first round is going to be made up of forwards. In fact, after Ekblad, there’s a significant drop off to the second best defenseman — and there may only be 3-5 blueliners selected in the top 30. If a team needs a defenseman, and they don’t get Ekblad at one or two, they’re kind of screwed.

Luckily for the Red Wings, there are plenty of centers on the board — and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that that’s the position they’re likely looking at. After trading Calle Jarnkrok to Nashville, and promoting Riley Sheahan to the Red Wings, there’s not a ton of depth down the middle, particularly since Mattias Janmark‘s permanent arrival in North America doesn’t appear to be imminent. Aside from Landon Ferraro and newly signed collegiate free agent Colin Campbell, neither of whom seem like they’ll factor into the big team’s plans, the center cupboard is dry.

DETROIT RED WINGS STRATEGY
The Wings don’t always keep their first round draft pick. During the late 90’s and early 00’s, they would often trade their top pick for immediate help. And while that practice has (mostly) been abandoned, it’s not unusual for the Wings to trade their top pick for a package of lower picks (several examples of which are below). With this Draft structured the way it is, it may be wise to employ that strategy again. There are a couple guys I like at 15, but if they’re not around, the group between 20 and 40 are largely equal.

2013 — Traded their 1st round pick (18th – Mirco Mueller) to San Jose for 20th (Anthony Mantha) and 58th (Tyler Bertuzzi).

2011 — Traded their 1st round pick (24th — Matt Puempel) to Ottawa for 35th (Tomas Jurco) and 48th (Xavier Ouellet).

2009 — Traded their 1st round pick (29th — Carter Ashton) to Tampa Bay for 32nd (Landon Ferraro) and 75th (Andrej Nestrasil).

2006 — Traded their 1st round pick (26th — Chris Summers) and 5th round pick (152nd — Jordan Bendfeld) to Phoenix for 41st (Cory Emmerton) and 47th (Shawn Matthias).

The stock of defensive prospects that the Red Wings have at their disposal is quite impressive. From Ouellet to Sproul to Marchenko to Almquist to Backman to Jensen, there’s no shortage of potential NHLers in the bunch. But, if the Penguins have taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too many blue chip blueliner prospects — even if they’re not going to be on the NHL squad, they’re valuable assets that can be moved for other assets. While there may not be a ton of potential first rounders, the collection of second round defensemen is vast — and if the Wings pick up a second (they currently do not have one), it may serve them well to pick one of the D that finds itself amassed in that group.

Another trend worth noting is their every-other-year-draft-a-goalie trend. I can’t remember who said it, but the Wings admitted to selecting a goaltender in every other draft to keep that cupboard full. After drafting Jimmy Howard in 2003, the trend started in ‘06:

2012 — Jake Paterson (3rd)
2010 — Petr Mrazek (5th)
2008 — Thomas McCollum (1st)
2006 — Daniel Larsson (3rd)

Obviously, this is the every-other year, so I would expect the Wings to take a goaltender in the mid to late rounds, and it almost has to be a collegiate-bound goaltender, since you get longer to sign them than junior players. The reason for this is that Mrazek and Paterson will BOTH be out of waiver exemption before Jimmy Howard’s contract expires… adding another goaltender to that logjam would not be wise.

FIRST ROUND OPTIONS
While it’s not guaranteed that they’ll select a center in the first round, I’d say it’s a fair bet. Here are ten guys to keep an eye on — more information can be found below in the prospect rankings. I have ranked them in an order that’s a mixture of “likelihood to be available” and how much I like them as a fit for the Wings.

1. Alex Tuch — USNTDP, Boston College commit — 6’3, 222
2. Dylan Larkin — USNTDP, University of Michigan commit — 6’1, 190
3. Jared McCann — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) — 6′, 179
4. Sonny Milano — USNTDP, Boston College commit — 5’10, 159
5. Nick Schmaltz — Green Bay (USHL), North Dakota commit — 6’0, 172
6. Connor Bleackley — Red Deer Rebels (WHL) — 6’0, 192
7. Robbie Fabbri — Guelph Storm (OHL) — 5’10, 166
8. Jakub Vrana — Linkoping (SWE) — 5’11, 185
9. Kevin Fiala — Malmo (SWE) — 5’10, 165
10. Ryan MacInnis — Kitchener Rangers (OHL) — 6’4, 185

The top seven or eight will likely be selected in the first round. The others, however, are likely to slide into the second round. If the Wings prefer one of those guys, they’ll likely trade down as they so often do.

BONUS DRAFT PICK OPTIONS
Without knowing the rest of the Draft order, it’s hard to say who the Wings may make a deal with, but let’s pretend they trade with someone like Anaheim to get the 28th and 38th (keep in mind that the Draft order won’t be set until after the remainder of the playoffs, so these numbers are just educated estimates) or Buffalo (31st, 39th, and 50th). The following players may be available and would be attractive Red Wings picks.

DEFENSE
1. Jack Dougherty — USNTDP, University of Wisconsin commit — 6’2, 185 (Right Handed)
2. Jack Glover — USNTDP, University of Minnesota commit — 6’4, 190 (Right Handed)
3. Brycen Martin — Swift Current Broncos (WHL) — 6’2, 182 (Left Handed)
4. Alex Peters — Plymouth Whalers (OHL) — 6’4, 207 (Left Handed)
5. Marcus Petterson — Skelleftea (SWE) — 6’3, 161 (Left Handed)
6. Alex Vanier — Baie-Comeau Brakkar (QMJHL) — 6’5, 224 (Left Handed)

FORWARD
1. Anton Karlsson — Frolunda (SWE) — 6’1, 189
2. John Quenneville — Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) — 6’1, 185
3. Eric Cornel — Peterborough Petes (OHL) — 6’1, 186
4. Chase DeLeo — Portland Winterhawks (WHL) — 5’9, 177
5. Shane Eiserman — USNTDP, University of New Hampshire commit — 6’2, 201

GOALTENDING OPTIONS
As mentioned above, I don’t think the Wings use a first, second, or third round pick on a goaltender, but I do believe that they’ll select one at some point. I focused solely on collegiate goalies, for reasons listed, and here are some names to check out. Of the six listed, only the top two are guaranteed to be drafted, and they may very well be around in the fourth round. While the others can be offered invitations to camp, they cannot be signed to contracts because of their collegiate commitments. The only way to guarantee they remain Red Wings property is to select them in the Draft.

1. Ed Minney — USNTDP, Michigan State commit — 6’4, 201
2. Black Weyrick — USNTDP, Brown commit — 6’2, 201
3. Chase Perry — Wenatchee Wild (NAHL), Colorado College commit — 6’2, 163
4. Hayden Lavigne — Tri-City Storm (USHL), Michigan commit — 6’3, 181
5. Kasimir Kaskisuo — Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL), Minnesota-Duluth commit — 6’2, 185
6. Zach Nagelvoort — University of Michigan — 6’2, 190

Nagelvoort is already enrolled, and therefore would need to be signed in three years. The others get all four years of college eligibility before necessitating an entry level deal.

PLAYER RANKINGS – TOP 75

1 – Aaron Ekblad – D – Barrie Colts (OHL) – 6’4 – 215 – Canada
He was the first defenseman ever to be granted “exceptional player status” by the Canadian Hockey League, allowing him to compete in Juniors a year earlier than his peers. At the time, he was only the second player ever granted such status (Tavares was the first).

2 – Sam Reinhart – C – Kootenay Ice (WHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Canada
Even though this has been The Ekblad Draft for several years, Sam (son of former NHLer Paul) Reinhart has made up the ground and may very well be the top pick. It all depends what the Panthers want to do with their lottery win.

3 – Sam Bennett – W – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 6′ – 178 – Canada
And playing the role of Jonathan Drouin this year is Sam Bennett — a guy who, all of a sudden, found himself atop the CSS Rankings to deflect attention from the fact that this is a two-horse race yet again. He’s still a hell of a hockey player, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t leap the other two if common sense prevails.

4 – Leon Draisatl – W – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) – 6’2 – 208 – Germany
The top European player in this year’s Draft. Even though he’s German, he came to North America to play in the WHL with Prince Albert, presumably to play against better talent than is available in the German junior leagues. Or pro leagues, for that matter.

5 – Michael Dal Colle – W – Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 6’2 – 179 – Canada
Steadily rose throughout the rankings all season before becoming a consensus top five pick. Nice size and smart with a great shot. He’s a hell of a player considering someone may get him at five.

6 – Brendan Perlini – W – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) – 6’3 – 205 – Canada
Fast, smart, and smooth — not to mention a great frame. Dangerous scorer, and responsible in the other two zones.

7 – Nikolaj Ehlers – W – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – 6′ – 170 – Denmark
Probabaly the closest thing to Mantha in this year’s Draft. Certainly doesn’t have Mantha’s girth, but he scores practically at will in the Q, and came on very strong during the season. Rose from a potential second rounder to (on some lists) a potential top five pick.

8 – Nick Ritchie – W – Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 6’2 – 231 – Canada
Power-forward, huge frame. Big brother was selected 44th overall by Dallas in 2011, and Nick will certainly one-up him at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

9 – Jake Virtanen – W – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’1 – 208 – Canada
He’s the whole package: quick, nice shot, good hands. He may very well go higher than 9, but won’t slip much lower.

10 – Kasperi Kapanen – W – Kapla (FIN) – 6′ – 180 – Finland
Sami’s son (YOU’RE OLD!), he’s the best Draft-eligible player from Finland this year. He’s not as big as some others, but he uses his size well and is quite slippery.

11 – Haydn Fleury – D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 6’3 – 198 – Canada
The second-best defenseman in the Draft, his first name really is spelled that way. Physical and not afraid to shoot.

12 – William Nylander – W – MODO (SWE) – 5’11 – 169 – Sweden
At one point was considered a potential #1 pick, knocking Ekblad down to #2, but has dropped a bit in recent months. Son of former NHLer Michael Nylander.

13 – Jared McCann – C – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) – 6′ – 179 – Canada
Not as big as some of the other centers available, he’s been a steady riser throughout the season. Nice two-way player that would certainly strike the Wings’ fancy.

14 – Nikita Scherbak – W – Saskatoon Blades (WHL) – 6′ – 172 – Russia
I love, love, love Scherbak more than most seem to. He is Russian, but he’s playing in the WHL. He’s probably the fastest player in the Draft (we’re talkin’ Helm fast), and has an unbelievable shot. If the Wings weren’t in desperate need of a center, I’d be a huge proponent of this pick.

15 – Alex Tuch – C – US NTDP – 6’3 – 222 – United States
While it’s possible he goes top ten, the Boston College commit has nice size and forechecks well.

16 – David Pastrnak – W – Sodertalje (SWE) – 6′ – 167 – Czech Rep
His name may sound familiar if you watched the World Junior Championship this season. He played well for the Czechs and will be a first round pick.

17 – Thatcher Demko – G – Boston College – 6’4 – 192 – United States
The top goaltender in the Draft is already manning the nets for powerhouse BC. It’s possible that no one picks a goaltender in the first round, but if there’s one taken, it’ll be this guy.

18 – Nick Schmaltz – C – Green Bay (USHL) – 6′ – 172 – United States
Another potential Wings pick is heading to North Dakota to play collegiate hockey. I’m less excited about him than Tuch or McCann, but Nick (brother of Jordan) Schmaltz will be a player.

19 – Dylan Larkin – C – US NTDP – 6’1 – 190 – United States
Heading to the University of Michigan in the fall, and it’s fair to assume that he — OR one of the three most recently mentioned centers — will be available at 15.

20 – Sonny Milano – C – US NTDP – 5’10 – 159 – United States
Here’s a funny one. He’s heading to Boston College (who know how to pick ‘em), and had an absolutely bananas U18 Worlds tournament, co-leading the champion United States in scoring with ‘15 phenom Jack Eichel (with whom he’ll be playing at BC). If there’s one guy that might jump up the rankings in the final two months before the Draft, this is it.

21 – Julius Honka – D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 5’11 – 178 – Finland
22 – Ivan Barbashev – W – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Russia
23 – Josh Ho-Sang – C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – 5’11 – 166 – Canada
24 – Roland McKeown – D – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 6’1 – 197 – Canada
25 – Brendan Lemieux – W – Barrie Colts (OHL) – 6′ – 211 – Canada
26 – Kevin Fiala – W – Malmo (SWE) – 5’10 – 165 – Switzerland
27 – Anthony DeAngelo – D – Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 5’11 – 165 – United States
28 – Connor Bleackley – C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 6′ – 192 – Canada
29 – Robbie Fabbri – C – Guelph Storm (OHL) – 5’10 – 166 – Canada
30 – Jakub Vrana – W – Linkoping (SWE) – 5’11 – 185 – Czech Rep

31 – Nikolai Goldobin – W – Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 6′ – 178 – Russia
32 – Adrian Kempe – C – Modo (SWE) – 6’2 – 187 – Sweden
33 – Ryan MacInnis – C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – 6’4 – 185 – United States
34 – Jack Dougherty – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Wisconsin – 6’2 – 185 – United States
35 – Anton Karlsson – W – Frolunda (SEL) – 6’1 – 189 – Sweden
36 – Brayden Point – C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 5’9 – 161 – Canada
37 – John Quenneville – C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Canada
38 – Marcus Pettersson – D – Skelleftea (SWE) – 6’3 – 161 – Sweden
39 – Jack Glover – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Minnesota – 6’4 – 190 – United States
40 – Brycen Martin – D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 6’2 – 182 – Canada
41 – Eric Cornel – C – Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 6’1 – 186 – Canada
42 – Chase DeLeo – C – Portland Winterhawks (OHL) – 5’9 – 177 – United States
43 – Daniel Audette – C – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) – 5’8 – 178 – Canada
44 – Shane Eiserman – W – USNTDP/Univ. of NH – 6’2 – 201 – United States
45 – Ondrej Kase – W – Chomutov (CZE) – 5’11 – 165 – Czech Rep
46 – Spencer Watson – W – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 5’10 – 185 – Canada
47 – Matt Mistele – W – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’2 – 183 – Canada
48 – Oskar Lindblom – W – Brynas (SWE) – 6’1 – 191 – Sweden
49 – Ryan Collins – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Michigan – 6’4 – 179 – United States
50 – Alex Peters – D – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’4 – 207 – Canada
51 – Tyson Baillie – C – Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – 5’10 – 185 – Canada
52 – Alex Nedeljkovic – G – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6′ – 184 – United States
53 – Blake Clarke – W – Saginaw Spirit (OHL) – 6’1 – 199 – United States
54 – Hunter Smith – W – Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 6’7 – 208 – Canada
55 – Christian Dvorak – W – London Knights (OHL) – 6′ – 179 – United States
56 – Ryan Donato – C – Dexter HS/Harvard – 6′ – 176 – United States
57 – Alex Vanier – D – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) – 6’5 – 225 – Canada
58 – Jon Duchesne – D – Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – 6′ – 205 – Canada
59 – Ville Husso – G – HIFK (FIN) – 6’2 – 192 – Finland
60 – Jonathan MacLeod – D – USNTDP/Boston Univ. – 6’1 – 179 – United States

61 – Aaron Haydon – D – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) – 6’3 – 190 – United States
62 – Aaron Irving – D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – 6’1 – 190 – Canada
63 – Connor Chatham – W – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’3 – 225 – United States
64 – Warren Foegele – W – St. Andrews HS/UNH – 6’1 – 183 – Canada
65 – Arkhip Nekolenko – W – Spartak (KHL) – 6’1 – 159 – Russia
66 – Adam Brooks – C – Regina Pats (WHL) – 5’10 – 170 – Canada
67 – Ben Thomas – D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’2 – 194 – Canada
68 – Jake Walman – D – Toronto Jr./Providence – 6’1 – 174 – Canada
69 – Brook Hiddink – C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 5’11 – 194 – Canada
70 – Patrik Koys – W – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) – 5’9 – 170 – Czech Rep
71 – Andreas Englund – D – Djurgarden (SWE) – 6’3 – 190 – Sweden
72 – Jayce Hawrlyuk – C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – 5’10 – 188 – Canada
73 – Justin Kirkland – W – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’3 – 181 – Canada
74 – Pavel Kraskovsky – F – Yaroslavl (KHL) – 6’4 – 181 – Russia
75 – Shayne Gersich – F – USNTDP/North Dakota – 5’11 – 172 – United States

NOTES AND BLOODLINES
#25 Brendan Lemieux is Claude’s son. Oof.
#27 Anthony DeAngelo has been suspended TWICE for using slurs against other players.
#33 Ryan MacInnis is Al MacInnis’ son. Inherited daddy’s slapshot, but plays forward.
#35 Anton Karlsson is Ottawa Senators star Erik’s brother.
#37 John Quenneville is Coach Joel Quenneville’s cousin.
#43 Daniel Audette is Donald Audette’s son.
#54 Hunter Smith is the tallest Draft-eligible player and is projected by some to go in 1st.
#55 Christian Dvorak is not related to former NHLer Radek.
#56 Ryan Donato is former NHLer Ted’s son.
#58 Jon Duchesne is not related to former Red Wing Steve.
#72 Jayce Hawrlyuk was briefly hospitalized after collapsing for unknown reasons.

MOCK DRAFT :: APRIL 28TH

1 – Florida Panthers – Aaron Ekblad – D
When the Panthers won the lottery and moved up to #1, the argument immediately became Ekblad or Reinhart. They have a bevy of nice young forwards, including Jonathan Huberdeau and last year’s second overall pick Aleksander Barkov. They’re a little light on the back end and Ekblad will be the franchise defenseman they’ve lacked forever.

2 – Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart – C
The Sabres need a little bit of everything, so to land a player that many think is the best in the Draft is a big deal, particularly after the emotional let-down of losing out on the Lottery. They slide into the player they likely would have selected had they won the top pick.

3 – Edmonton Oilers (trade for D likely if Ekblad gone) – Sam Bennett – W
I believe that the Oilers will try to move this pick unless, somehow, Ekblad slides down to three. The Oilers need defensemen, and have no need whatsoever for another young forward. If they can package this pick (and maybe one of those forwards) for an established blueliner, that’s what they’ll do. If they end up picking, it’ll likely be the consensus “other top player” available.

4 – Calgary Flames – Michael Dal Colle – W
So the top three players are off the board, no matter who’s picking, leaving the Flames and their new GM Brad Treliving. The Flames may go center since they have a little more prospect depth at the wing, but Dal Colle would be a tough guy to pass on.

5 – New York Islanders (potentially to Buffalo) – Leon Draisaitl – W
The Islanders are obligated to trade EITHER this pick or their first round pick in 2015 to Buffalo to complete the Vanek deal. If I’m the Islanders, I move this pick. While it’s unlikely that the Islanders both miss the playoffs AND win the lottery next season, the 2015 Draft is way too good to gamble with. Imagine keeping this pick (which is relatively weak for a Top 5 pick), and somehow getting the chance to pick McDavid or Eichel next summer. That’s a fate I don’t wish on anyone. A decision must be made by June 1st.

6 – Vancouver Canucks – Jake Virtanen – W
The Canucks need a right winger real bad. According to Hockey’s Future, only two of their prospects play the right side and only one of them is a surefire NHLer. Virtanen immediately fills that void and helps to rebuild a prospect base.

7 – Carolina Hurricanes – Kasperi Kapanen – W
New Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will likely be looking to make a splash, and who better than former teammate Sami Kapanen’s hotshot son? Kapanen may not be ranked as highly as this, but it’s a can’t-lose pick from a PR standpoint, and he’s a heck of a player to boot.

8 – Toronto Maple Leafs – Brendan Perlini – W
We’re starting to get into “best available” territory and Perlini is a great pick for the Leafs at number 8. For a team that has trouble playing both ways, he’s a nice player to start to right the ship organizationally.

9 – Winnipeg Jets – Nikoaj Ehlers – W
The Jets would do a backflip if they landed Ehlers without moving up, and they very well may. The best pure scorer in the Draft, he’d immediately be the top prospect in the organization and would look real good playing with Mark Schiefele for ten years.

10 – Anaheim Ducks (via Ottawa) – Nick Ritchie – C
It’s kind of a bummer that one of the top teams in the NHL also get a top ten pick, but that’s what happens when you make savvy trades. Since this is basically a bonus, you almost have to take the best available player — and the Ducks should be comfortable with their prospects on the back end and in goal. A big center fits their mold to a T.

11 – Nashville Predators – William Nylander – W
The Predators’ organizational strength lies down the middle, and some nice prospects on the left wing. The right wing position is a little thin, and though Nylander has fallen down the rankings a little bit, they’d be lucky to snatch him up without a top ten pick.

12 – Phoenix Coyotes – Jared McCann – C
Like the Predators, the Coyotes have a strong group of centers coming down the pipe. While it’s possible they look to the wing with this pick, the next half-dozen or so forwards are going to be centers. Defense is also possible, but arguably their best prospect (Brandon Gormley) plays back there.

13 – Washington Capitals – Haydn Fleury – D
The Capitals actually have some pretty decent stock in all areas, but if they’re thin anywhere it’s on the blueline. To get the second-best defenseman in the Draft without giving anything up would be exciting for them.

14 – Dallas Stars – Alex Tuch – C
The Stars are a nice young team, but the top of their prospect pool is a little bit lacking. Jim Nill is a Draft genius, however, and expect that to turn around quick-like. Tuch is a wonderful, wonderful player and will be a nice piece to have when he’s ready to leave school.

15 – Detroit Red Wings – Dylan Larkin – C
With Tuch and McCann off the board, the Wings will have their pick of a handful of worthy centers. Larkin is the biggest of them, and will be playing most locally at the University of Michigan. The Wings are no strangers to collegiate prospects (Howard, Smith, DeKeyser, Nyquist, Abdelkader, Glendening, etc.) and that system has served them well.

16 – Columbus Blue Jackets – Nikita Scherbak – W
They’ve never been afraid to grab a Russian in the past, and Scherbak is a good one for that system. He’s speedy and could potentially step right into the NHL with the right situation. He has some tools that even the playoff version of the Blue Jackets are lacking.

*Remaining Draft order is not necessarily in the following order. But for argument’s sake, we’ll pretend it is*

17 – Philadelphia Flyers – Nick Schmaltz – C
The Flyers lack what you might call an elite forward prospect. And while they might not get one at this point in this Draft, they’d do well to select a center that will be able to develop slowly in the NCAA rather than being pressured into turning pro and helping out right away.

18 – New York Rangers – Sonny Milano – C
It’s no secret that the Rangers dig American players, particularly guys who come through the National Team Development Program. Milano has had a real nice April, so it’s downright likely that he’s gone by this pick, but if he’s available, the Rags get their Ryan Callahan replacement.

19 – Minnesota Wild – Thatcher Demko – G
The one team that’s likely to go goaltender in the first round is Minnesota. Aside from Kuemper, they may not have another netminder who will definitely play in the NHL, and they’re in decent shape in other areas. Demko is a big-time goaltender, and is no stranger to big games already.

20 – Los Angeles Kings – Ivan Barbashev – W
This is really nice value for this late in the Draft, and the Kings know what they’re doing.

21 – Montreal Canadiens – David Pastrnak – W
Montreal had a monster 2013 Draft. They selected SEVEN guys I had ranked in the Top 100, including a guy I wanted so badly for the Red Wings to pick that it’ll be hard to watch him do well in Montreal (Sven Andrighetto). They’re fairly stacked everywhere, so they’re in “best available” territory.

22 – Tampa Bay Lightning – Roland McKeown – D
Steve Yzerman knows as well as anyone that winners are built from the back end out, and now that Bishop may have solved his goaltending issues and they’re (likely) satisfied with the top end of their forward prospect corps, it’s time to upgrade that blueline. The one-time top ten pick McKeown would slot right under Slater Koekkoek on that list.

23 – Chicago Blackhawks – Brendan Lemieux – W
Brendan Lemieux has risen all season and will make a team very lucky in the latter half of the first round. The Hawks only real glaring hole among the prospects pool is along the wing, and this is a nice pick. Also, as if it would be harder for Red Wings fans to hate the Hawks more, why not inject some Turtle into their eventual lineup?

24 – San Jose Sharks – Josh Ho-Sang – W
When Connor McDavid was a midget, he was the second leading scorer on his team. Josh Ho-Sang may have benefitted from playing with McDavid, but he’s proving to be a legitimate NHL prospect in his own right.

25 – St. Louis Blues – Connor Bleackley – C
If there’s anything the Blues could use, it’s another scoring forward among their ranks. Bleackley seems to have that ability and would make a nice addition to relatively thin crop of centers on the farm.

26 – Pittsburgh Penguins – Robbie Fabbri – C
The Penguins are drowning in defensive prospects, and don’t boast a heck of a lot of quality down the center. They only have one center playing somewhere aside from Europe and the NCAA, so they’re in a nice position to take a Guelph Storm.

27 – Colorado Avalanche – Anthony DeAngelo – D
The Avs could really use a winger or two in this Draft, but I can’t shake the feeling they’d like DeAngelo’s game. He generates offense from the blueline, and the Avalanche are not strangers to that kind of player — not to mention, why not add to the balanced attack that Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog will be running for the next decade?

28 – Anaheim Ducks – Julius Honka – D
After taking a forward earlier, they’d probably take a defenseman to get one of each out of the first round. Honka is rated higher than this spot, and the Ducks aren’t in any hurry to have him join the big club, so a project is just fine by them.

29 – Boston Bruins – Kevin Fiala – W
As impressive as the current Bruins are, there’s a not a whole lot to be excited about coming down the pipe. While they — like the Red Wings — like guys who play both ways (see: Bergeron, Patrice), I don’t think it’d be unwise to take a flier on a guy that’s balls-out offense. With Krejci, Lucic, and Marchand’s playing style, they won’t be around forever.

30 – New Jersey (required to pick 30th as punishment) – Nikolai Goldobin – W
The Devils could use a better selection that this one, but this is what they get. With next to nothing to look forward to on the wings, selecting a guy who practically scores at will in the OHL will be a nice get for the last pick in the round.

Looking at the Red Wings’ 2014-15 Roster

We’re all of three days into the offseason but it’s never too early to start looking at next year. I’ve had a lot of side conversations about what I think the Red Wings’ roster will look like next year and what it should look like (which aren’t the same thing) so I figured I’d post my “ideal” opening night roster and go from there.

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukGustav Nyquist
Tomas TatarRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmDaniel Alfredsson
Drew MillerDavid LegwandLuke Glendening
Mitch Callahan
Landon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallDanny DeKeyser
Jonathan EricssonBrendan Smith
Ryan SproulXavier Ouellet
Adam Almquist

Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

You’ll notice there are some names missing, and that’s why this may be my “ideal” roster but it’s also pretty much impossible.

The forward lines are build out from the second line. If the Red Wings are really going to embrace the youth movement, even when healthy, I want the Kid Line skating as Detroit’s second line again. It might not be the best possible lineup to start the year but I think it will be by the end of the season and for seasons beyond.

With the Kid Line in place, you can load up on the first line, with both Eurotwins and Gustav Nyquist.

On the third line you’ve got Darren Helm centering Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. I bring back Alfredsson if he wants to come back and put him on the third line to keep his minutes down and add some scoring. It also gives flexibility for the inevitable Line Blender, as you could bump Abdelkader to the top line as Mike Babcock loves to do, drop Nyquist down to the second, and play Tatar on the third.

The fourth line brings back David Legwand simply because I think he has to be re-signed or it makes the deal to trade for him look even more ridiculous. I wouldn’t bring back Glendening but Babcock loves him so he’s going to be in the lineup on opening night.

Callahan and Ferraro are out of waiver options, they stick with the big club out of camp.

Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson? All free agents, all allowed to walk.

Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson, Jordin Tootoo? That’s where this gets messy, as I don’t have a spot for any of them or any player they might bring back in trade and there’s only one compliance buyout left.

The easy answer is that Alfredsson and Legwand don’t return and Franzen and Weiss take their spots. Tootoo gets bought out and Andersson gets the Cory Emmerton treatment. That makes the Legwand trade look awful but is that better than finding a way to unload Weiss (who’d probably just have to be waived with the hope that someone claims him)?

Franzen… Oh Franzen. There are going to be a lot of words written about him between now and the draft. I’ll try not to write too many of them. I say the draft because I think if he’s going to be traded, it’ll be then. He won’t be bought out. It’s not that Franzen necessarily is bad or overpaid (his cap hit is great for his potential). When he’s good, he’s among the best. When he’s bad, he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there. Combined with his comments about not being paid to score goals, there’s a perceived attitude problem there. The negatives outweigh the positives to me.

On defense, I don’t think the top four are all that controversial. Kyle Quincey is gone. The UFA defense pool is shallow this year and Quincey is going to get absolutely paid by someone.

The third pair, though, is where the youth movement kicks in. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul looked ready in their limited opportunity this season. I give them the chance to start next year.

I’d like to have a veteran seventh defenseman to back them up but – like Ferraro and Callahan – Adam Almquist is out of options so he stays up by default.

Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl? They’re in Franzen/Weiss/Andersson territory. Under contract but I don’t have a spot for them. Lashoff can be buried in Grand Rapids if necessary, the only “easy” decision available.

In goal we’ve got Howard back (of course) and Petr Mrazek making the jump to be his backup. Some (maybe even within the Wings organization) will argue that Mrazek is better served getting starts in GR than as backup, I disagree. A 50/30 split would get Howard some rest and get Mrazek into games.

This doesn’t answer the team’s reported interest in a top-four, right-handed defenseman (unless you want to count Sproul there). It leaves a bunch of players with contracts off the lineup. It doesn’t get anything in return for those missing players and it doesn’t utilize the cap space freed up by their absence. In short, it’s not going to happen. But it’s the starting point that I’m going to look at things from this summer.

Series Wrap: Red Wings vs. Bruins

There are two stories we’re seeing a lot of coming out of the Red Wings’ elimination by the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals, four games to one.

One is the idea of the Bruins as an unstoppable force. Four rolling lines, a deep defense and a Vezina-calibre goalie. They were destined to win.

The other is that Detroit was young and inexperienced, riddled with injuries. That youth just couldn’t stand up to the pressures of an NHL postseason.

The truth isn’t one or the other, or even in between. It’s the combination of the two.

As I’ve said before (repeatedly), we saw in Game One that the Red Wings playing a perfect game could beat the Bruins. For the rest of the series, we saw that it would take a perfect game to do so. Boston was simply that good. And Detroit couldn’t be perfect three more times.

Inexperienced centers like Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening couldn’t be counted on to win faceoffs that needed to be won. Defensive coverage was missed by blueliners and forwards alike.

The Red Wings’ youth, pressed into service due to injuries, gave the Bruins opportunities. And the Bruins were too good to let those opportunities to go waste.

Does a healthy Detroit team lose to Boston in the first round? A healthy Detroit team doesn’t play Boston in the first round. There’s no point worrying about that.

Do we need to worry about Gustav Nyquist (and Tomas Tatar, and Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco) going without a point in five games? No. Pavel Datsyuk went without a point in the 2003 postseason. Datsyuk didn’t score a goal for three consecutive playoff runs. This was a learning experience for the kids. A painful one, but they now know what it takes to play a team like the Bruins in the playoffs.

I forget who it was, but I saw someone Tweet something like “The kids learned how to win last year in Grand Rapids. They learned how to lose this year in Detroit.” That lesson is not one to take lightly. Twenty years ago Chris Osgood learned that lesson and held onto it for his entire career.

Where do the Red Wings go from here? That’s a whole other post, likely to come shortly. Immediately, though, they’ll clean out their lockers and we’ll probably hear a bit more about just how bad the injuries were. That could explain a lot but in the end it won’t matter; Detroit is out, Boston moves on.

Red Wings Eliminated in 4-2 Loss to Bruins

Much like in the previous week of games, the Detroit Red Wings had no answer to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, leading to a 4-2 loss in Game Five of their Atlantic Division Semifinal matchup.

It was the fourth-straight loss for the Red Wings, who were eliminated from the playoffs after only managing to win Game One in Boston.

Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, making his second consecutive start in place of the flu-ridden Jimmy Howard, made 29 saves on 32 shots in the losing effort for Detroit.

The Bruins opened the game’s scoring just 3:27. On a power play, Dougie Hamilton carried the puck down the right wing and threw a pass from the corner into the slot. The puck bounced off Darren Helm and right to Loui Eriksson, who cut to the right faceoff circle and backhanded a chance under Gustavsson’s glove.

Pavel Datsyuk tied things up at 5:19 left in the second period. With Detroit on a power play of their own, Henrik Zetterberg fired a long shot that was knocked down by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. Johan Franzen was on the doorstep to sweep the puck to Datsyuk, who was driving in from the left wing to snap a shot into the back of the net.

Boston captain Zdeno Chara put the Bruins back out in front with just four seconds left in the period, blasting a shot from the top of the right circle past Gustavsson on another power play.

Milan Lucic made it 3-1 at 4:27 of the third. Torey Krug picked off an attempted outlet pass by Franzen at the Detroit blue line and carried it down low on the left wing before sending it to the front of the net where Lucic was wide open to knock a shot past Gustavsson.

Zetterberg would give the Red Wings hope with 3:52 remaining, fighting off Chara and getting to a loose puck at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, then lifting a no-angle shot into the far corner past Rask to make it 3-2.

With 16 seconds left, Jarome Iginla would close things out with an empty net goal.

Rask finished the night with 31 saves on 33 shots.

The Red Wings scored on one of their seven power play tries while Boston scored with the man advantage on two of six attempts.


Defenseman Xavier Ouellet made his NHL playoff debut, replacing Jakub Kindl in the Detroit lineup… Goaltender Jake Paterson was a healthy scratch as Howard was well enough to back up Gustavsson… Daniel Alfredsson returned after missing two games with a back injury, replacing Todd Bertuzzi.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Bruins – Game 5 – 4/26

I’ll put together some more complete thoughts later but for now… As I said before, the Red Wings could have beaten the Bruins in this series. It would have taken a nearly perfect series to do so, but they could have.

They didn’t. Needing perfection, they were sloppy and looked tired. That’s all a team like Boston needs to pick you apart, and they did exactly that to Detroit.

So the Wings are done. They’ll look different next year (I’ll have more on that in the coming days, that’s for sure) but the good news is they learned a ton this season, so when they’re back they’ll have the benefit of that.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Bruins – Game 5 – 4/26

The Red Wings’ season could end this afternoon, as they face a 3-1 series deficit heading into Game Five in Boston.

Jonas Gustavsson will get the start in net for Detroit, as Jimmy Howard still has the flu, though rumors abound that he may have actually been concussed from a knee to the head in Game Three. Howard won’t even be available to serve as backup as he nominally did in Game Four, so Jake Paterson has been called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

In another lineup change, Daniel Alfredsson is expected to return after missing two games due to a back injury. There’s no word on who he would replace.

If the Red Wings were to lose Game Five, it would just be the second series in their history that they lost in five after winning Game One.

Stupid stat of the day: In the nineteen previous times Detroit has gone down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, the Red Wings are 7-12 in Game Five.

Game time is 3:00 PM on NBC.

Postgame: Bruins @ Red Wings – Game 4 – 4/24

Well, the Red Wings went from their best period of the series to… Something less.

The first period was amazing. Whether it was due to their backs being up against the wall or the return of Henrik Zetterberg or the other line changes or a need to play better in front of Jonas Gustavsson, who got the start on late notice when Jimmy Howard came down with the flu, Detroit came out strong and had Boston on their heels. Niklas Kronwall‘s power play blast put Detroit out in front. Then early in the second Pavel Datsyuk made it 2-0 and the Wings were rolling.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. We’ve heard all series that the Red Wings can’t let Boston get a chance on the power play. In the second period, the Bruins got 13 seconds. They only needed two. Suddenly it was 2-1. Milan Lucic was left alone cutting to the net early in the third and things were tied up. And Detroit was never really in it again.

Yeah, Justin Abdelkader had his partial breakaway chance in OT but he never really had the puck control that he wanted. Boston outshot Detroit 12-3 in the extra frame. The Wings didn’t really have a chance.

And then the Bruins got the bounce. Off Luke Glendening, off Danny DeKeyser, in behind Gustavsson, it’s over.

I can rant about how I hate that the Bruins get away with getting their sticks up or late hits or whatever but I don’t think that’s been the difference in this series. Outside of Game One, the Red Wings just have not had the ability to play a complete game against these Bruins. Boston has simply been the better team.

Do I think the Red Wings can turn it around? Sure. Do I think they’re going to? Not particularly. It would take them flipping a switch, playing three consecutive games like they did in Game One. They haven’t been able to get one more of those all series, so I don’t see how they’re going to get three.

On Detroit’s Game Four History

In today’s pregame, I included a “Stupid Stat of the Day” about Detroit’s Game Four record after winning Game One and losing Games Two and Three. Specifically, that the Red Wings are 5-3 all-time in Game Four after following that pattern in the first three games.

On Twitter I sensationalized it a bit more, cherry-picking the fact that only one of those Game Fours happened at Joe Louis Arena and was a loss to say…

The resulting discussion got me to dive into this a bit further and there were some interesting things.

March 26, 1949
A 3-1 Detroit win in Montreal ties up the series and the Red Wings go on to win in seven games before getting swept by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Finals.

March 31, 1953
Detroit drops a 6-2 decision in Boston. The Wings would win Game Five back home but the Bruins would finish off the series in Game Six.

March 29, 1960
The Red Wings get a 2-1 overtime win at Olympia over the Maple Leafs to make the series 2-2. Toronto wins the next two games to finish the matchup.

May 11, 1987
A 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the Campbell Conference Finals puts the Red Wings down 3-1. The Oilers would win Game Five in Edmonton to wrap things up.

April 9, 1989
The Chicago Blackhawks take a 3-2 win and a 3-1 series lead in the Norris Division Semifinals. Detroit would win Game Five back at home before a Chicago blowout in Game Six finished things.

April 28, 1998
In a Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup, the Red Wings win Game Four in Phoenix. They take the next two games against the Coyotes to advance, going on to win the Stanley Cup that year.

April 27, 2006
The Red Wings win Game Four of their Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Oilers in Edmonton. The Oilers take the next two games, though, to complete the upset.

May 7, 2009
Detroit earns a big 6-3 win on the road to even their Western Conference Semifinal series with the Anaheim Ducks. Detroit would end up winning the series in seven games, eventually being knocked out in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Five wins, three losses.

Unsurprisingly, those three losses led to a loss in the series, as they put Detroit down 3-1 and unable to come back. Two of the times the Red Wings managed to win Game Five to force a sixth game but none of those series reached seven.

Of the five wins, Detroit ended up losing the series anyway twice, both times in three games.

The three times they won Game Four and went on to win the series? They went to the Stanley Cup Finals those years.

Pregame: Bruins @ Red Wings – Game 4 – 4/24

The Red Wings are expected to get a boost tonight as they host the Boston Bruins in Game Four of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series, with team captain Henrik Zetterberg slated to return to the lineup after being out since the Olympics with a back injury.

Zetterberg participated in full practices yesterday and today and will replace Joakim Andersson in the lineup if he gets clearance from team doctors today.

The Wings are going with one other lineup change, as Todd Bertuzzi swaps in for Tomas Jurco.

The changes come as Detroit looks to spark their offense, having scored only twice in the series and now facing a virtual must-win at home, already down 2-1 in the series and heading back to Boston for Game Five on Saturday.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings have won Game One of a series and then lost Games Two and Three eight times. They have a 5-3 record in Game Four of those series.

Bonus stupid stat: This is only the third of those games to be played at home. They are 1-1 in those cases.

Game time is 8:00 PM on FSD and NBCSN.

Postgame: Bruins @ Red Wings – Game 3 – 4/22

I’m so angry about this game that I don’t know where to start.

You know how I said in the pregame that the Bruins could beat the Wings playing the Wings’ game? We saw that, tonight. Boston had the puck all night. Detroit never had a chance.

Yeah, if you want to spin it as one soft goal, a bad line change, and an empty-netter, you can make it look not as bad for Detroit. “All we have to do is fix these couple, small things.” But let’s say you fix those things… Boston’s still got the puck something like 75% of the time. They’re going to score, more likely than not. It’s one thing if you “should” have won if not for those errors, it’s another when you deserved to lose but the goals against just happened to come on stupid mistakes.

Are the Wings still in it? Of course. I said in the pregame I think a longer series benefits Detroit and if they win on Thursday, we’ve got a split of the first four games.

Are the Wings still in it if they play like they did tonight? Not a chance. They’ve got to find a way to wake the hell up.