Depth and skill highlight group of Detroit Red Wings junior prospects

By Kyle West
Photo: Andrej Nestrasil will look to represent the Czech republic in the upcoming 2011 WJC in Buffalo. Nestrasil currently has 10 goals and 21 assists in 27 games. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

As a testament to the strong scouting in the Red Wings organization, all but one of their junior prospects selected past the second round have shown remarkable progression since being drafted.

QMJHL

Andrej Nestrasil, C, PEI Rocket
Acquired: 3rd round (75th overall) in 2009
February 22nd, 1991. Ht: 6’2 Wt: 200 lbs

A big, strong forward who pays the price to get into scoring areas, Nestrasil has the size and skill to become a power-forward at the NHL level. Concerns over his skating stride led to him dropping to the third round on his draft day however there is no doubting his desire and talent. Always looking to get involved on the forecheck, Nestrasil crashes the net without fear and makes defenders nervous with his ability to dish out the hurt. He also is a skilled passer, has quick hands in close and is deadly with a breakway, making him the go-to guy in the shootout.

Producing at a point-per-game clip, Nestrasil will be a key player for the Czech Republic‘s WJC team this year, having been one of their top-scorers last year. Still on the slow side as far as foot speed, Nestrasil has the size, talent and toughness to become a top-end NHL prospect and the Red Wings likely plan to test him in the AHL as early as next season.

Louis-Marc Aubry, C, Montreal Juniors
Acquired: 3rd round (81st overall) in 2010.
November 11th, 1991. Ht: 6’4 Wt: 200 lbs

The lanky center from Trois-Rivieres has begun to fill out physically and also shows signs of developing his offensive potential. Playing a strong two-way game, Aubry exhibits superior hockey sense and a commitment to team-first play. He continues to be the key faceoff man, kills penalties and blocks shots however he is also becoming much more involved offensively. Adding twenty pounds to his frame over the summer has helped him crash the net more effectively and hold off defenders while his growing confidence on the puck has seen him producing at a point-per-game pace on a very strong Montreal Juniors team.

With their customary patience in terms of development, the Red Wings will likely encourage Aubry to spend another year in junior in hopes that he may yet develop past his third-liner projection into a consistent offensive force who plays a strong, two-way game.

Gleason Fournier, D, Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 3rd round (90th overall) in 2009
September 8th, 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 185 lbs

A smooth skater who has world-class dimensional movement, Fournier has the offensive abilities to bring fans out of their seats. To date, Fournier has five goals and 18 assists through 29 games. What Red Wings management wants him to focus on are the things that don’t catch the attention as much; defensive positioning and winning puck battles in his own end. A slightly built player who has a troubling injury history, Fournier has to get stronger in order to handle players at the next level of his development.

Needing a contract at the end of this season, Fournier continues to produce solid numbers offensively while playing stronger hockey in his own end of the ice. There is too much talent here for the Red Wings to not sign him, however they may encourage him to return to the QMJHL as an overager if they feel he is not ready for the AHL next year.

Trevor Parkes, RW, Montreal Juniors
Acquired: Free agent in 2010
May 13th, 1991. Ht: 6’1, Wt: 180 lbs

Passed over in the 2010 draft, Parkes is a free agent signing for Detroit in 2010. Having made a good impression as a free agent tryout, Parkes was invited back to training camp after being passed over in the draft and offered an entry-level contract. Similarly ignored in the OHL draft, Parkes is a rare case of an Ontario born and bred player moving to Quebec to find a junior team to play on.

A native of Fort Erie, Ontario, Parkes consistently shows the work ethic that got him to the Q despite being snubbed and showed great character in winning a contract in camp despite being injured at the time of the tryout. A point per game player this season, Parkes will not fail to reach his potential through lack of effort.

OHL

Petr Mrazek, G, Ottawa 67s
Acquired: 5th round (141st overall) in 2010
February 14th, 1992. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 160 lbs

A leading contender to backstop the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Junior Championship, Mrazek has already won over the starter’s position in Ottawa. Leading the league in goalie stats for rookies last season, Mrazek seized the pole position in the OHL playoffs last year and posted a sensational .928 save percentage.

While larger goalies are in vogue around the NHL, Mrazek is quick and agile and, most importantly, hates to concede a goal. His second effort and sharp reflexes enable him the difficult saves and his lateral movement is exemplary. Maintaining his concentration and poise through a longer OHL season will be a test, however he has already posted improvements in his numbers over last year and is seeming to thrive under the pressure of being the everyday starter. With Jimmy Howard seemingly set as the Red Wings goalie of the present, Mrazek will likely need to follow the same patient career path as Howard and spend several years in the AHL tuning his game.

WHL

Mitchell Callahan, RW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 6th round (180th overall) in 2009
August 17th, 1991. Ht: 5’11 Wt: 175 lbs,

A yappy and scrappy California kid who revels in his role as an agitator, Callahan loves to be the guy the other team hates. A willing fighter who will drop the gloves with anyone, to date he has already had six scraps. Callahan harries defenseman at every turn on the forecheck and looks for an opportunity to land a big hit whenever he can.

Not the smoothest of skaters, Callahan needs to get a quicker first step in order to bring his game to the next level. He also may need to stop fighting anyone who asks when he starts competing against men in the pro ranks.

On pace to more than double his 20 goals of last season, Callahan has shown some promise of being a finisher yet his upside remains a third-line energy player. The type of player Detroit
fans have been longing for since the days of Joey Kocur, Mitch Callahan may someday be a fan favorite with the Red Wings faithful.

Landon Ferraro, C, Everett Silvertips
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall) in 2009
August 8th, 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt:170 lbs

The junior prospect selected in the highest draft position, Landon Ferraro has the most question marks surrounding his long-term future. The Red Wings traded down in 2009 and selected Ferraro early in the second round and felt certain they were getting a can’t miss prospect with great bloodlines who somehow slipped out of the first round. Ferraro has yet to make good on that promise, enduring an injury-plagued season and having a public falling-out with his coach in Red Deer last year. Scratched for the final game of the Rebel’s short playoff run, Ferraro was expected to re-emerge as a top-line talent after his trade to Everett in the summer. Instead he has struggled to find consistency and has just five goals in his first 23 games.

For a player with his speed, shot and hockey sense, having scored 37 times in 68 games in his draft year, the low returns on the scoreboard must be starting to worry the Red Wings brass.

Brooks Macek, C, Tri-City Americans
Acquired: 6th round (171st overall) in 2010
May 15th, 1992. Ht: 5’11 Wt: 170 lbs

A playmaking center with quick hands, Macek was the key player in the American’s lengthy playoff run last year but has had a slower start to this season. Posting over a point per game last year, Macek added six goals and 17 points in 21 playoff games and led Tri-City to the WHL finals. This year Macek has slowed down to 16 points in 28 games and may be suffering from playing on a weaker team.

An outstanding skater whose creative instincts are best exhibited on the power play, Macek does need to pay more attention to the defensive side of his game and build up some muscle mass to compete in the high-traffic areas of the ice. Projected to approach the 90 point plateau this season, Macek will need to pick up the scoring pace and find ways to become more involved in the offense if he hopes to achieve that benchmark.

USHL

Benjamin Marshall, D, Omaha Lancers
Acquired 6th round (201st overall) in 2010
May 15th 1992. Ht: 5’9 Wt: 160 lbs

A remarkable talent on the Minnesota High School circuit, Ben Marshall scored at will for his Mahtomedi High teammates and was second only to first rounder Nick Bjugstad (FLA) in state scoring totals. The difference between first and seventh round selections is obviously size, as Bjugstad is 6’4 and Marshall is 5’9. Committed to joining Bjugstad at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2011, Marshall is adapting his game to the USHL with the same explosive offensive potential that he showed in high school.

Already with 12 points in 19 games, Marshall has proven doubters that he could continue to excel at generating offense from the back despite the much tougher level of competition. An amazingly quick and smooth skater, a slick passer and a deadly sniper with the slapshot, Marshall is also a fierce competitor with a great degree of self-belief and confidence. There have been very few NHL defenceman under 5’10, however with the changes in the game and the arsenal of weapons that Marshall can bring to bear, this is one seventh round pick that may yet pay back huge dividends for the Detroit Red Wings.