If it was not already clear what position the Detroit Red Wings felt needed to be addressed in their organization it certainly became so after the 2014 NHL Draft. Detroit used six of their seven picks on sizable centers.
The only player Detroit picked who does not play in the middle was goaltender Chase Perry of the NAHL. In selecting a goaltender Detroit followed their pattern of replenishing the pipeline by selecting a netminder every other year.
Detroit’s run on centers is an unprecedented draft strategy for them but certainly addresses an organizational weakness. Trading Calle Jarnkrok to Nashville and seeing Riley Sheahan and Joakim Andersson earn NHL roles left Detroit without much depth at the lower ranks of the organization. None of the prospects the Red Wings selected are expected to contribute at the higher levels of the organization for a number of seasons, which should provide Detroit with the necessary depth in the ECHL and AHL for years to come.
Overall, Detroit added seven new prospects to their ranks via the 2014 draft. Aside from the obvious theme of taking centers, the Wings also opted for players with larger frames. They were relatively evenly split between players from North America (three) and players from Europe (four).
Detroit used their highest draft selection since 1991 to select Dylan Larkin, who was also the pick at #15 in the Hockey’s Future staff mock draft. One cannot fault the Red Wings for seeing a lot to like in the Michigan native. After all, his playing style is very similar to one of the most beloved players to ever don the winged wheel: Steve Yzerman.
Larkin cited Yzerman as the player he idolized growing up, “Steve Yzerman, the captain, pretty much says it all,” Larkin told Hockey’s Future at the 2014 NHL Draft. “The way he led his team, the way he played a two-way game, and the way he acted. Off the ice he was a true professional.”
The Red Wings are getting a high character player who is exceptionally adept on his skates. He uses his speed on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck, and he also has good vision and scoring touch.
There is a chance Larkin will play on the wing when he suits up for the University of Michigan this fall due to the school’s center-heavy roster. Regardless of position, Larkin will take his time to enjoy college and not rush his development. Larkin addressed the issue and assuaged any fears that he may be a one-and-done college player. “I’m committed for four years,” Larkin said. “I have an option to leave after the second year, I think, and I think I’ll look at it and see what’s planned and really look at it with my family.”
Larkin met with the media after being chosen by the Red Wings, with some of his comments captured in this HF video.
Dominic Turgeon may have family ties to the NHL, but he makes no false pretenses when comparing his game to his father Pierre’s: “I guess we’re pretty different,” Turgeon told Hockey’s Future at the 2014 Draft. “He was a highly offensive player in the NHL and I feel like right now my game is very strong defensively but I feel like as time goes on my offensive game is going to really, really jump and take a step this year.”
Turgeon was effective as a third line center for the Portland Winterhawks, playing 65 games and scoring 10 goals and 21 assists in 2013-14. Turgeon looks forward to moving into a top-six role with the Winterhawks in 2014-15, an organization that he could not say enough nice things about. “The way they develop kids is just unbelievable,” said Turgeon. “The whole organization does everything so well, so I feel like that was a big part of my career.”
After having his named called by the Red Wings, Turgeon spoke with the media, with some of his comments included in this HF video.
Christoffer Ehn, C, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)
4th round, 106th overall
Height: 6-3 Weight: 181
There is no way to sugar coat it; Christoffer Ehn’s statistics in his draft year left something to be desired. He played 45 regular season games with Frolunda J-20, scoring four goals and seven assists. He did score three goals in three playoff games, but these statistics still are not representative of the talent the Red Wings organization believes Ehn possesses. Ehn has a big frame that he is still filling out, and is a good skater. If he continues to fill out and develop a more complete offensive game, Ehn could potentially be a third line center in the NHL.
Chase Perry, G, Wenatchee Wild (NAHL)
5th round, 136th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 175
Detroit rarely selects players from the NAHL, but they saw a combination of athleticism, skill, and size in Chase Perry that was too difficult to pass over in the fifth round. Perry had a 15-12-6 record for the Wild in 2013-14, along with a .905 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average. Perry’s game took a step forward in the playoffs, where he posted a minuscule 1.83 goals against average to go with a .933 save percentage.
Perry will begin his freshman season with Colorado College of the NCAA in the fall. He has four years to sign an entry-level deal, giving him plenty of time to adjust to the college game before turning professional.
Perry spoke with Hockey’s Future at the NHL Combine, with his comments captured in this HF video.
Julius Vahatalo, C, TPS J20/TPS (Jr A SM-liiga/Liiga)
6th round, 166th overall
Height: 6-5 Weight: 191
The first thing that stands out when evaluating Julius Vahatalo’s game is his height. Combine a 6’5” frame with offensive skills and a good work ethic and one can see why the Red Wings wanted Vahatalo as a member of their prospect pipeline.
Vahatalo started the 2013-14 season at Finland’s U20 level. He produced so prolifically, scoring 39 points in 33 games, that he was promoted to TPS’ Liiga club. Vahatalo played in 18 games in the Liiga, scoring three goals and gaining a wealth of experience. Like almost all prospects his age his frame is still filling out, which bodes well for his future professional growth. Vahatalo has both passing and shooting skill, and he will continue to hone those in the Liiga in 2014-15.
Axel Holmstrom, C, Skelleftea J20 (SuperElit)
7th round, 196th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 198
He may bear no relation to former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom, but Axel Holmstrom certainly plays as if he did. Holmstrom is a tough, relentless worker who has some offensive upside. He scored 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points in 33 games with Skelleftea J20 in 2013-14. He also had a very impressive 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, scoring 11 points in just seven games. Holmstrom was drafted for his good work ethic, but if his offensive game continues to develop, he could be more than just a third line center.
Alexander Kadeykin, C, Atlant Mytishchi (KHL)
7th round, 201st overall
Height: 6-3 Weight: 213
The Red Wings may have pulled off quite the steal with the selection of Alexander Kadeykin, especially considering that the pick with which he was selected was a throw in from San Jose in the trade that sent Brad Stuart to the Sharks after the 2011-12 season.
Kadeykin fits the bill as far as the type of player Detroit leaned towards in the 2014 Draft; he is a strong two-way center with offensive upside that is just beginning to develop. In 54 KHL games in 2013-14, Kadeykin notched 23 points. This is not an earth-shattering total, but it is more impressive when considering that Kadeykin was only getting the minutes of a third line center. Kadeykin will play one more season in the KHL in 2014-15.