The Red Wings closed out the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, making six selections in addition to their pick of defenseman Dennis Cholowski on Friday night.
Of course, this draft can’t just be measured by the picks. The biggest move general manager Ken Holland pulled off – probably his biggest move in years – was unloading Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract on the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night.
On paper, it looks like an incredible deal. The Red Wings lost Datsyuk’s cap hit, had to take on the contract of a player who will probably be LTIRetired, moved down four spots in the first round, and added a second round draft pick. Moving down four picks to add a second rounder is a total Ken Holland move. The financial win is a bonus at that point.
That said, the move wasn’t made just on paper. The pick the Wings gave up could have been used on defensemen Jakub Chychrun or Dante Fabbro, both highly-touted prospects. Instead, they ended up with Cholowski and Czech blueliner Filip Hronek. Quantity does not make up for quality there. All picks are hit or miss but the guys the Wings got are much more of a gamble than the ones they passed up.
So, in the end, you have Datsyuk’s contract unloaded in return for taking a gamble in the draft instead of something much closer to a sure-thing. And unloading Datsyuk’s contract is necessary so they can take a gamble on a big-name free agent signing with the team. It’s gamble upon gamble but I think it’s the right move. The worst-case scenario is that Cholowski and Hronek don’t pan out, Chychrun wins a Norris Trophy, and the Wings don’t sign anyone this summer.
As for the picks themselves, this is what the Wings walked away with…
Dennis Cholowski, Defense, 1st Round (20th Overall)
A smart defenseman who the Red Wings like for his skating ability. Is still relatively raw but will have four years at St. Cloud State to develop before even joining the Detroit organization.
Givani Smith, Forward, 2nd Round (46th Overall)
Gritty forward (Tyler Wright says he “plays nasty”) who also scored 23 goals on an awful Guelph Storm team last season. Models himself after Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds.
Filip Hronek, Defense, 2nd Round (53rd Overall)
Smallish defenseman who can move the puck. Will have to get bigger to make it in the NHL.
Alfons Malmstrom, Defense, 4th Round (107th Overall)
No one but Hakan Andersson seems to know anything about this guy, so I’m taking that as a good thing.
Jordan Sambrook, Defense, 5th Round (137th Overall)
Another smooth-skating defenseman. He describes himself as a two-way player. Played for the Erie Otters of the OHL last season.
Filip Larsson, Goaltender, 6th Round (167th Overall)
A little bit of an odd pick, which makes it interesting to me, as the Wings traditionally select a goalie every-other year and this marks three years in a row having picked one. I think this is a matter of restarting the goalie pipeline, as they’re probably going to lose Tom McCollum this summer, meaning Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson are the tandem in Grand Rapids. Next year Jimmy Howard goes to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, Coreau moves up, and Paterson starts in GR. Chase Perry basically rebooted his career so who knows when he’ll be ready. Joren van Pottelberghe is signed for awhile in Europe so he may or may not make the jump. Why not gamble with a late pick to add to that pool?
Mattias Elfstrom, Forward, 7th Round (197th Overall)
Only the second forward picked by the Red Wings. Seemingly another Hakan Andersson pick. Apparently he’s fast and big. Of note, it looks like no publication has a birthplace for him. Sweden is a big place.