Jakub Kindl stays top prospect for the Detroit Red Wings

By Brandon Peleshok

Photo: Red Wings top prospect Jakub Kindl is expected to start the 2010-11 season in the NHL. (Photo courtesy of www.ontariohockeyleague.com

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Jakub Kindl remains the highest ranked prospects in the Red Wings system, and new additions to the list include Riley Sheahan, Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen. Gustav Nyquist and Adam Almqvist have made significant jumps on the list, while goaltender Daniel Larsson dropped six spots.

Top 20 at a glance:

1. (1)Jakub Kindl, D, 8.0C
2. (2)Brendan Smith, D, 8.0D
3. (4)Tomas Tatar, LW, 7.5C
4. (9)Gustav Nyquist, C, 7.5C
5. (NR)Riley Sheahan, C, 7.5C
6. (5)Justin Abdelkader, C, 7.5C
7. (8)Jan Mursak, RW, 7.5D
8. (7)Thomas McCollum, G, 7.5D
9. (3)Daniel Larsson, G, 7.5D
10. (6)Landon Ferraro, RW, 7.0C
11. (NR)Calle Jarnkrok, C, 7.0C
12. (NR)Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, 7.0C
13. (12)Andrej Nestrasil, C, 7.0C
14. (20)Adam Almqvist, D, 7.0C
15. (10)Cory Emmerton, C, 7.0D
16. (11)Dick Axelsson, LW, 7.0D
17. (15)Mattias Ritola, LW, 6.5C
18. (13)Willie Coetzee, RW, 6.5C
19. (14)Gleason Fournier, D, 6.5C
20. (17)Joakim Andersson, C, 6.5C

1. (1) Jakub Kindl, D, 23
Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, 2005

Retaining his spot at the top of the Red Wings top 20 list is the 6’3, 210 pound Kindl. He spent his third and final year as a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2009-10 season, steadily improving near the end of the year. Kindl was able to put up a respectable 33 points over 73 games. He also tightened up his overall game, finishing with a -4 rating, a far cry from the -34 rating from his rookie season.

Kindl projects as a strong skating defenseman who can also run the powerplay. He possesses an ability to hold onto the puck, a hard shot and strong passing game. Given his size, he can also play physical when needed. The biggest issue is his tendency to turn the puck over coming out of the defensive zone. The Red Wings front office feels that when Kindl relies on his instincts and does not think, he is at his best. Perhaps the pace of the NHL will work to the blueliner’s advantage, allowing his raw skill to take over.

Kindl will start the 2010-11 season as a member of the Red Wings, as he can no longer safely move through waivers. He will likely spend time as the number seven defenseman on the time, possibly alternating time with teammate Jonathan Ericsson on the third pairing.

2. (2) Brendan Smith, D, 21
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2007

Smith had another productive season as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers, finishing the season as a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award along with fellow prospect Gustav Nyquist. His offensive numbers skyrocketed for the 2009-10 season, as he tallied a career high 52 points in 42 games, more than double his previous season’s total. The 6’1, 190 pounder also showed himself to be very capable on the powerplay, as 11 of his 15 goals came on the man advantage.

Smith’s greatest assets are all offensively related. His ability to quarterback a powerplay is outstanding, as he possesses a strong shot, great mobility on the blue line and tape-to-tape passing. Additionally, his instincts in the offensive zone are off the charts. The young defenseman will have to tighten his defensive game coming into the AHL. He also has prior off-ice incidents that will likely disappear under the close eye of the Red Wings front office. Smith will make his rookie debut for Grand Rapids in the upcoming 2010-11 season, and could step right into the top pairing with Kindl headed to the NHL.

3. (4) Tomas Tatar, LW, 19
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2009

Tatar is perhaps the most offensively talented prospect on the top 20 list. He made the AHL right out of training camp at just 18 years old, and was the youngest player in the league. For a team that likes to develop prospects slowly, Tatar appears on the fast track. He started off the season for the Griffins at a near point per game pace. However, while the W-U20 tournament opened the world’s eyes to Tatar in 2008-09, the same tournament slowed him down in the 2009-10 season. After the tournament ended Tatar went on a bit of a cold streak, finishing the season with 32 points in 58 games.

Tatar’s best asset is offensive sense and instincts. He is a strong skater, with a heavy and accurate shot. Additionally, he has the ability to hang onto the puck for long periods of time and distribute it to his teammates. He will still have to work on his defensive game, and perhaps add some size to his 5’11, 179 pound frame. The sky is the limit for Tatar, as he will spend his second season in Grand Rapids, looking to have a full productive season for the Griffins.

4. (9) Gustav Nyquist, C, 21
Drafted 4th round, 121st overall, 2008

Nyquist has seen his stock rise considerably on the top 20 list after several strong seasons with the University
of Maine. The Swedish winger finished the 2009-10 season as a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in his second season of college play, ultimately losing out to senior player Blake Geoffrion (NAS). He finished the season with an impressive 61 points in 39 games.

Nyquist projects as the total package, with great offensive and defensive instincts. He possesses strong playmaking skills, and plays an excellent two-way game. Perhaps his greatest assets are his work ethic and perseverance. The only knock on Nyquist is his lack of size, standing 5’11, 170 pounds. Nyquist will return to Maine for the 2010-11 season, where he will look to develop his offense game even further.

5. (NR) Riley Sheahan, C, 18
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2010

New to the top 20, Sheahan was the Red Wings number one pick for the 2010 draft. At 6’2, 202 pounds he certainly possesses good size, and with his high skill level, Sheahan projects as a future power forward. In his rookie season with Notre Dame, he put up just 17 points in the span of 37 games. It should be noted that Notre Dame is a defensively oriented school, and that Sheahan was one of the youngest players in all of the NCAA. He uses his size very well, and gets in front of the net for good offensive opportunities.

In the 2010-11 season Sheahan will look to build upon his offensive numbers for Notre Dame. He can best be described as a very safe pick. At the very least Sheahan could fill the role of a checking line center, and a very good one at that.

6. (5) Justin Abdelkader, C, 23
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2005

In his swan song as a member of the Red Wings top 20 list, Abdelkader finds himself as a capable NHLer, playing full time for Detroit in the upcoming 2010-11 season. At 6’2, 203 pounds Abdelkader uses his size to his advantage, as he was second on the team in hitting with 152 in 50 games. While he was only able to put up six points in that span, the team has been most impressed with his physicality. Abdelkader has also shown a willingness to drop the gloves, as he has taken boxing lessons over the summer.

Detroit’s brass believes that Abdelkader still has power forward potential in him, but like most Red Wings prospects, he will be eased into the role. He will be a fixture on the fourth line, likely alternating between left wing and center with Darren Helm.

7. (8) Jan Mursak, RW, 22
Drafted 6th round, 182nd overall, 2006

Mursak’s lack of size (5’11, 184lbs) has always been a concern for scouts and the Red Wings brass, but his skill was able to shine through during the 2009-10 season. After a dismal rookie season in the AHL, he bounced back by putting up 42 points in 79 games, 24 of which were goals.

The Slovenian forward possesses blazing speed that has been compared to current Red Wings player Darren Helm. He also has the ability to hang onto the puck for long periods of time and has the soft hands to be a sniper or playmaker.

Grand Rapids coaching staff will likely give Mursak an increased offensive role on one of the top two scoring lines. He will look to have another impressive year in the AHL, possibly breaking the 30 goal plateau in the process.

8. (7) Thomas McCollum, G, 20
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2008

McCollum had a terrible rookie season for the Grand Rapids Griffins. At one point he was even forced to play for the ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye, where he posted a 4.48 GAA and .864 save percentage. Not much better in the AHL, McCollum posted a 3.48 GAA and .881 save percentage for the Griffins. All things aside, McCollum still has the raw talent and skill to be a future starting goaltender. He has good size (6’2, 210lbs) and has sharp reflexes.

McCollum will need to bounce back during the 2010-11 season. With fellow goaltender Larsson bolting for Sweden, he will be given a bigger chance to become the number one guy in Grand Rapids, battling it out with veteran Joey MacDonald.

9. (3) Daniel Larsson, G, 24
Drafted 3rd round, 92nd overall, 2006

Larsson has seen his stock drop considerably, sliding down in the rankings from number three to number nine. This is primarily due to him leaving Grand Rapids and signing a two-year deal with HV-71 of the SEL. With the emergence of Jimmy Howard as the Red Wings number one goalie, and McCollum right behind him, Larsson cited that he was done with the AHL for the time being. Larsson also struggled a bit on a losing Griffins squad, but still managed to post somewhat respectable numbers with a 2.85 GAA and .903 save percentage. At 6’0, 180 pounds he is not the biggest goalie out there, but he has great lateral movement and has a good glove hand.

Larsson could see his shot at becoming a Red Wing in jeopardy due to his choice to return home. He could still return to Grand Rapids in a year, as he has an out clause, but it is unlikely.

10. (6) Landon Ferraro, RW, 19
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2009

Ferraro suffered a rather unimpressive campaign for the 2009-10 season as a member of the Red Deer Rebels. After putting up 37 goals in the season before last, he was limited to just 16 goals and 30 assists within 53 games. His lack of production can be attributed to an early season knee injury and friction from within the team. Much like Mursak, Ferraro has world-class skating ability, a nose for the net, a strong shot, and good offensive instincts. However, he is very slight at 6’0, 171 pounds, and so he will have to put on some weight to be effective at the pro level.

Ferraro could see new life with his move to the Everett. With the bad blood between he and former coach Jesse Wallin out of the way, Ferraro will have to show that his skill can carry him to the next level. He will look to put up a 40+ goal season with the Silvertips in order to take the next step toward an NHL career.

11. (NR) Calle Jarnkrok, C, 18
Drafted 2nd round, 51st overall, 2010

While Calle Jarnkrok might be small in stature (5’11, 165lbs), he possesses an immense amount of offensive skill. The Swedish center spent the 2009-10 season with the J20 team for Brynas, before moving up to the big club. During his 19 games stint with the J20 team, he was able to put up 31 points. Upon his move to the SEL team, the speedy center put up 10 points in 33 games with only modest ice time. Jarnkrok’s best asset is his ability to hang onto the puck and stickhandle. He also has goo
d speed and a knack for setting up his teammates.

Jarnkrok will start the 2010-11 season back on Brynas of the SEL, where he will look to build on his totals from last year.

12. (NR) Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, 18
Drafted 4th round, 111th overall, 2010

The final new addition to the Red Wings top 20 list, Pulkkinen has all-world skill. Many scouts projected him to go within the first two round at the draft, but he dropped off quite a bit due to a lack of size (5’11, 180lbs) and injuries to his wrist, knee and shoulder. While his play for Jokerit was not overly impressive, scoring just three points in 12 games, he was outstanding at the WJC-18 tournament scoring 15 points in just six games. Pulkkinen possesses a very strong, hard and accurate shot. He lacks foot speed, but makes up for it with his hockey sense and ability to hang onto the puck.

Pulkkinen has returned to Jokerit for the 2010-11 season, and is playing in the European Trophy tournament where he currently has four points in three games. He will look to play in the SM-Liiga for the upcoming year, where a healthy season will do him a world of good.

13. (12) Andrej Nestrasil, C, 19
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2009

As a member of the Victoriaville Tigres, the center put up 51 points over 50 games. At 6’2, 200 pounds Nestrasil projects as a possible power forward, though, he leans more toward creating plays for his teammates. He has strong playmaking skills, is willing to take the body and is very strong on the puck.

Nestrasil will return to the QMJHL for one more season, looking to further grow into his frame as well as continue to develop offensively.

14. (20) Adam Almqvist, D, 19
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2009

Almqvist has made a large jump on the top 20 list, primarily due to his excellent play for HV-71 in their tier-two club and their SEL team. On the under-20 team, Almqvist was able to put up 34 points in a span of 15 games, which was enough to garner him a call-up to the big club. While his regular season totals were limited to just 8 points in 28 games, he blew up once again in the post-season scoring 11 points in 16 games on route to a championship victory with his team.

The gifted Swede boasts impressive hockey sense, and is adept at working the powerplay with a strong shot and tape-to-tape passes. The biggest issue with him is his weight, tipping the scales at 5’11, 174 pounds.

If Almqvist can put on the proper weight, the Red Wings could find themselves with yet another late round gem.

The 19 year-old will spend another season with HV-71, presumably starting with the big club from the beginning of the season.

15. (10) Cory Emmerton, C, 22
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2006

Cory Emmerton probably is not progressing the way the Red Wings front office had hoped. The 6’0, 188 pound forward had a slight increase in scoring production but it was only by two points, notching 37 points in 76 games. He possesses decent playmaking skills, and has good hockey sense but to find himself on the Red Wings in the future, he will have to put together an impressive campaign in 2010-11.

To his credit, Emmerton has a strong two-way game, and if his scoring does not improve, he could still develop into a checking line center.

16. (11) Dick Axelsson, LW, 23
Drafted 2nd round, 62nd overall, 2006

Axelsson split his 2009-10 season between Grand Rapids of the AHL and Farjestads of the SEL. He chose to leave North America in mid-December of 2009, citing a lack of comfort with his new surroundings. Upon his return to Sweden, the 6’2, 188pound forward was able to put up 10 points in 15 games with Farjestads. Axelsson is a very strong skater, and he also possesses soft hands, making him an offensive threat every shift.

The Red Wings want him to commit to being an NHL player, which means sticking it out in the AHL for a few seasons. While he possesses a great deal of talent, Axelsson’s attitude and unwillingness to go through the American Hockey League could spell his end as a Red Wings prospect.

17. (15) Mattias Ritola, LW, 23
Drafted: 4th round, 103rd overall, 2005

Ritola could finally get his shot at becoming a Red Wing in the upcoming season, or he could be moved. With fifteen NHL-ready forwards on the big club, Detroit is going to be forced to move someone by way of trade or possibly placing them on waivers. Ritola was able to put up another 42 point season with the Griffins in the 2009-10 season. His puck-handling skills are impressive and he has worked on his defensive game during his time in the AHL. The 5’11, 205 pound forward has also worked on his physical game, showing a willingness to play in the tough areas of the ice.

Ritola’s future as a member of the Red Wings will depend on how strong he plays during training camp for the upcoming season. If he does stay with the team, he will play as a spare forward, most likely entering the lineup in the case of injury.

18. (13) Willie Coetzee, RW, 19
Signed as a free agent in 2009

For the 2010-11 season, Coetzee will have the option of playing in the WHL as an over-age player or making his Grand Rapids debut. After being signed as a free agent in 2009, his offensive totals exploded as he scored 81 points in 72 games for Red Deer. He also quieted some of his critics, playing most of the season without the offensive help of former teammate Landon Ferraro. Coetzee possesses good speed and has soft hands, which he uses primarily as a playmaker.

At 5’10, 186 pounds he will likely have to bulk up in order to play effectively in the pro leagues. It is likely that Coetzee is going to have to become stronger offensively or possibly miss his shot as an NHL player, as his lack of a defensive game will not allow him to play as a checking forward.

19. (14) Gleason Fournier, D, 18
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2009

Over 2009-10, Fournier posted an impressive 50 points in the span of 58 games. The defenseman is a very impressive skater, possessing blazing speed and great mobility. He has a skill set to possibly be a number 5-6 offensive defenseman. However, he will have to shore up his defensive game if he hopes to make the NHL one day.

Heading into his fourth season as a member of Rimouski in the QMJHL, Fournier will have to post some impressive offensive numbers considering he will need to sign a contract next summer.

20. (17) Joakim Andersson, C, 21
Drafted 3rd round, 88th overall, 2007

While Andersson’s offensive numbers during his p
lay for Frolunda of the SEL do not jump out as impressive, his play on the international stage has shown him to have promise. In his past two W-U20 tournaments he has put up 12 points in 12 games. Meanwhile, he put up 18 points in 55 games with Frolunda, while maintaining his strong physical and defensive play. He has the size (6’2, 205lbs) to make an impact in the AHL right away, as he will play for Grand Rapids in the 2010-11 season. If he can find success at the AHL level, Andersson could project as a third line, checking center.