After Larkin, Detroit Red Wings European and NCAA prospects a mixed bag

By Chris Roberts
Mike McKee - Detroit Red Wings

Photo: Detroit Red Wings prospect Mike McKee brought a physical edge for Western Michigan this season. (courtesy of Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

 

The prize of the Detroit Red Wings prospect pool is University of Michigan forward Dylan Larkin, who seems likely to sign an NHL contract sooner rather than later despite being in just his first season of collegiate hockey.

Outside of Larkin, the majority of the Wings’ top prospects play in the AHL or CHL, but there is a decent group of potential future Red Wings playing in the NCAA and Europe this season.

NCAA

Dylan Larkin, C/LW, University of Michigan (Big 10)
Drafted: 1st round, 15th overall, 2014

The Red Wings have a history of slowly bringing along even their best prospects, but Dylan Larkin might be an exception to the Detroit philosophy of player development. An already elite collegiate hockey player in his freshman season, Larkin is second in team scoring with 47 points in just 35 games, seven points behind 22 year old senior Zach Hyman (FLA).

Larkin has 25 points in 15 games since an impressive coming-out party at the World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal. He was only held pointless in two of those 15 games. There’s clearly not much more for Larkin to prove even after just one NCAA season; ideally, the Wings would like to sign Larkin following the end of his season and get him under control next year, where he could develop for a season or two in Grand Rapids. For now, it seems Larkin will return for a chance to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament.

Ben Marshall, D, University of Minnesota (Big 10)
Drafted: 7th round, 201st overall, 2010

A small-but-speedy offensive defenseman in his fourth and final year of college eligibility, Ben Marshall has had a relatively quiet year this season. The Minnesota native posted point totals of 13, 19 and 18 in his past three seasons, but has just two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 38 games this year.

Marshall has been passed by both Michael Brodzinski (SJS) and Jake Bischoff (NYI) this season and is a team-worst -2 on a highly-skilled and deep Golden Gophers team. The Wings have until August 15th to sign Marshall, but he and the Gophers will try to end the season on a high note at the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big Ten Championship.

Mike McKee, D/F, Western Michigan University (NCHC)
Drafted: 5th round, 140th overall, 2012

A defensive defenseman, Mike McKee became a more permanent fixture in the Western Michigan University line-up this season, playing in 34 games and scoring a pair of goals while adding one assist. At 6’5 and 250 lbs, McKee is a punishing hitter, who might not be fleet-footed enough to keep up at the NHL level, but he continues to develop – just not at the position he was drafted.

McKee’s -5 rating tied for worst on the team with sophomore Taylor Fleming, but the big-bodied forward has recently been playing as a physical, grinding forward on the fourth line. He was suspended one game for an illegal hit on a University of Nebraska-Omaha player and racked up quite few penalty minutes.

James de Haas, D, Clarkson University (ECAC)
Drafted: 6th round, 170th overall, 2012

In his second season at Clarkson University, 6’3, 205 lbs defenseman James de Haas is progressing about as expected. After a 13-point freshman campaign, he is the team’s top-scoring defenseman through 36 regular season contests this year, scoring three goals and adding 12 assists. Freshman Kelly Summers (OTT) is the closest in defenseman scoring with 10 points.

Like last year, de Haas has been used quite a bit on the power-play, where he has three goals. He also has one game-winning goal this season, the first of his collegiate career. He got off to a tremendous start this season, but has just one point in his previous 13 games. He is a player the Red Wings can afford to be extra patient with, as he has two years of college eligibility left.

Europe

Christoffer Ehn, C, Frölunda J20 (SuperElit)
Drafted: 4th round, 106th overall, 2014

A lanky pivot signed to Frölunda, Ehn has spent the majority of the 2014-15 season with the club’s under-20 team, where he served as captain. In 40 games with the team, Ehn scored 12 goals and added 24 assists. That total was good for third on the squad, while Toronto seventh-rounder Pierre Engvall led with 51. Ehn was also called up for six games with the SHL team, going pointless. He has also appeared in four games in Sweden’s second tier league, Allsvenskan, on loan from Frölunda.

At the World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal, Ehn picked up two assists for the fourth-place finishing Swedish team. He is very much a raw talent, and should see more time with Frölunda next season.

Alexander Kadeykin, C, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 7th round, 201st overall, 2014

The Red Wings took a flyer on 6’4, 214 lbs, 21 year old power forward Alexander Kadeykin in the seventh round of last year’s draft. The hulking winger had a tremendous rookie season in the KHL, scoring 23 points in 54 games, but struggled to find offensive consistency to begin this season.

He was moved to SKA St. Petersburg after going nine games with just one point; since the move, Kadeykin has scored four goals and added four assists in 20 games. He’s a player that, should he decide to come to North America, is likely years away.

Axel Holmström, LW/C, Skellefteå (SHL)
Drafted: 7th round, 196th overall, 2014

Perhaps finding another Swedish steal in the late rounds, the Red Wings have to be thrilled with the play of Axel Holmstrom this season. The 6’1, 200 lbs winger performed well at the World Juniors, scoring seven points in seven games – one goal and six assists.

In the SHL, Holmstrom cemented his spot on Skellefteå with 10 goals and 10 assists through 44 games, good enough for ninth in team scoring. In the postseason thus far, he has one goal and four assists in four games.

Hampus Melén, LW/C, Karlskrona J20 (Division 1)
Drafted: 7th round, 199th overall, 2013

Skilled but lanky winger Hampus Melen has yet to establish himself as a suitable pro player in Sweden nearly two years after being drafted. With the Växjö Lakers J20 team this season, Melen scored just once in 13 games, adding eight assists during that time. He has also spent half the season with the Karlskrona J20 team in Sweden’s second-tier junior division. Understandably, Melen has been an offensive dynamo at that level, collecting 26 points in 15 games. He needs to bulk up before becoming a SHL regular.

Julius Vähätalo, LW/C, TPS (Liiga)
Drafted: 6th round, 166th overall, 2014

At 6’6 and pushing 200 lbs, there’s no denying Julius Vahatalo has the size to compete in Finland’s top pro league, but the 20 year old had just one goal and one assist in 36 games with TPS, albeit while receiving limited ice time on the second-worst team in the Liiga. His offensive skills are there, however; in 12 junior games in Finland, he has scored seven goals and added nine assists. Vahatalo, playing against players his own age at the World Juniors, scored twice in five games for his country.

Prospect of the Month

Detroit Red Wings HeadshotsSince the start of February, Zach Nastasiuk, captain of the Owen Sound Attack, has dressed in 16 games and been pointless in just one of those games. Nastasiuk has picked up 23 of his 77 points this season in those recent 16 games (eight goals, 15 assists) and has been a +6 during that time. Five of his eight goals in the past month-and-a-half have come with the man advantage and his 35 tallies in 62 games are enough to put him 17th in OHL goal scoring. He missed four games since the last Red Wings prospect update, but is healthy and in top form heading into the playoffs.

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