The old axiom says, "to the victor go the spoils," but that is not always the case. The Detroit Red Wings lost a heart-wrenching Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, but the organization suffered no Cup hangover (or in this case near-Cup hangover) when it came to the 2009 NHL Draft.
Having only one prospect from the 2009 draft reach the NHL does not come as a surprise to followers of the Red Wings, as the team is notoriously patient with their draft picks. More surprising is that every player picked is still playing for the organization, with many appearing to be ready for an appearance in the NHL in the near future.
Landon Ferraro, C, Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 2nd round, 32nd overall
NHL Games: 0
Ferraro was taken after having a breakout year with the Rebels in 2008-09, notching 37 goals in 68 games. His offensive performance that season was a tantalizing peak at offensive skills that took far longer to develop than most believed.
In 2009-10 Ferraro scored only 16 goals, and he did not score more than 10 at any level of hockey until his breakthrough 2012-13 season with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins. Ferraro was a major contributor to the Griffins Calder Cup run, putting up 24 goals in 72 regular season games and another 16 points in 24 playoff games en route to a championship.
Ferraro's contributions, however, extend past the box score. He has the offensive skills to play on the power play, but also has the defensive acumen to play on the penalty kill. Ferraro has maintained his high level of play in 2013-14, and he seems to be working his way towards an NHL roster spot.
He may be turning some heads in the NHL in 2013-14, but Tatar's offensive abilities have long been on display in the AHL. Tatar made the jump to the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2009-10 and immediately showed some of the offensive intuition and playmaking ability that he has become known for, recording 32 points in 58 games.
Tatar played with Grand Rapids on a relatively permanent basis (he was called up the NHL for short stints in 2010-11 and 2012-13) through the 2012-13 season, his best as a pro. The 2012-13 season culminated in a Calder Cup championship for Tatar and his Griffins teammates and a Calder Cup MVP award for Tatar. He had an impressive 16 goals and 21 points in 24 playoff games.
The Red Wings decided that Tatar was finally ready for full-time NHL work in 2013-14, slotting him into the lineup frequently alongside offensive dynamos like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Tatar has a mixture of sublime passing, shooting, and stickhandling abilities that should serve him well in the NHL for many seasons to come.
Andrej Nestrasil, LW, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) – 3rd round, 75th overall
NHL Games: 0
When Nestrasil was drafted, it looked like the Red Wings were adding another skilled point producer to their crop of talented forwards playing junior hockey. Nestrasil is undoubtedly skilled, but his point production has tailed off dramatically since making the jump to professional hockey.
Nestrasil had 57 points in 67 games during his draft year (2008-09), and his point total peaked at 70 in 2010-11 after being traded to the Prince Edward Island Rocket. Nestrsil moved up to the AHL in 2011-12 could not find his scoring touch, eventually being sent down to the ECHL's Toledo Walleye. The same situation ensued in 2012-13. While Nestrasil has stuck with the Griffins in 2013-14 he has just 11 points in 35 games. Detroit will need to decide whether there is a spot for him in their future plans, as his entry-level contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Gleason Fournier, D, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) – 3rd round, 90th overall
NHL Games: 0
Detroit was looking to add mobile defensemen in the 2009 draft, and that was precisely what they found in Fournier. He was selected because of his skating ability, but by the end of his QMJHL tenure, he had also proved that he had the offensive instincts to produce points. Fournier's best junior season was 2009-10, in which he had 50 points in 58 regular season games and 12 points in 12 playoff games.
The Red Wings tried to bring Fournier along slowly, as he moved up to the ECHL's Toledo Walleye in 2011-12. Fournier was not able to find his scoring touch (he recorded 18 points in 55 games) but still was called up to the AHL for 13 games. Fournier has split time between the ECHL and AHL in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Fournier's speed is still intact, but his defensive deficiencies have caught up with him and will cause Detroit to pause when considering whether to re-sign him after his contract expires at the end of the season.
Another piece of the puzzle in Detroit's push to acquire more mobile defensemen, Jensen has all-world skating ability. He was a little-known prospect when Detroit selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, but his game took leaps forward during his time with St. Cloud State University. Jensen spent three seasons with St. Cloud State, quickly acquiring more responsibility and more ice time. By the end of the 2012-13, Jensen was an alternate captain for a Frozen Four qualifying team, and he also took home the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year award.
The 2013-14 season has seen Jensen turn professional, and with that have come a number of growing pains. He has spent time in both the ECHL and AHL and has yet to record an AHL point. Statistics can sometimes be deceiving, because he has turned in solid defensive performances in his time with Grand Rapids. Jensen will have time to grow professionally; he signed a two-year, entry-level contract after the 2012-13 season.
Mitch Callahan, RW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – 6th round, 180th overall
NHL Games: 0
There were not many players like Callahan in the Detroit system when he was drafted. He was a player who loved to fight, took penalties, and lived with the consequences. He racked up 188 penalty minutes in 2008-09 with the Kelowna Rockets, but that did not deter the Red Wings from taking Callahan late in the draft.
Callahan spent three seasons with Kelowna, and each of those seasons saw his point totals go up and his penalty minutes go down. He learned to play with less reckless abandon and more controlled chaos, and it has served him well.
The 2011-12 season saw Callahan move on to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, where he settled in to the fourth line role that he is now accustomed to. Callahan recorded only nine points in the 48 games he played as an AHL rookie. He had a rough start to the 2012-13 season but blossomed towards the end and has kept his momentum in 2013-14, putting up an already career high 25 points in 44 games. Callahan has learned to control his temper while still playing a gritty game, and his 17 goals in 2013-14 are in part a result of his penchant for going to the difficult areas in front of the net.
Adam Almquist, D, HV71 J20 (SuperElit) – 7th round, 210th overall
NHL Games: 2
Offensive instincts (and output) have fueled Almquist's career to the point where Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said during Almquist's NHL call-up that he sees defenseman as full-time NHL player if he can add weight to his skinny frame. The fact that Almquist has already gotten a taste of the NHL, even if only for two games, speaks to the talent that he possesses.
Almquist made a name for himself as a point-producing blueliner in Sweden's SuperElit league, and this prompted a promotion to the SHL. Almquist spent parts of three seasons in Sweden's best league before coming over to North America to play in the AHL in 2012-13. Almquist transitioned superbly to the pro game, posting 31 points in 68 regular season games. He has a goal and 28 assists in 41 games in 2013-14, and as mentioned above was even given an opportunity to gain NHL experience as an injury replacement. Almquist has a legitimate shot at the NHL if he develops physically.