Despite being in the playoffs for seemingly an eternity (not really, just closing in on three decades), the Detroit Red Wings have managed to find their fair share of high-end prospects in the middle to late parts of the first round and beyond.
Their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, is stocked with promising youngsters that should permeate the lineup in Motown sooner rather than later. It seems clear what the Red Wings were going for at pretty much every spot: size and skill at wing, all-around defenders as well as diminutive puck-movers on defense, and solid if unspectacular goaltenders.
The team is already feeling the impact of its scouting as Alexey Marchenko, Teemu Pulkkinen and Dylan Larkin have all had varying impacts on the NHL level. Most notably, Larkin stepped into the lineup as a teenager and has played top-line minutes while performing as one of the best rookies in the league.
20. (NR) Alexander Kadeykin, C, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 201st overall, 2014
A big-time sleeper on this list, the 22-year-old Kadeykin is not going to be one to impress you with his offensive game. He has been somewhat inconsistent in that regard during his time with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, posting eight points over his first 20 games as a rookie, but only tallying 11 in 48 games in this his second season.
With a big frame at 6’3 and nearly 220 pounds, Kadeykin is the kind of big-bodied two-way center that could fill a bottom-six role at the higher levels. He still needs work on his skating, but he has shown an ability to hold his own in a men’s league.
19. (NR) Axel Holmstrom, RW, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2014
The 2015-16 season marks the first season Holmstrom has stayed exclusively with Skelleftea AIK of the SHL and the results have been solid. He has seven goals, down from last season, but 15 assists and 22 points, both up from last season’s efforts. Not only that, but Holmstrom had a very good international effort this season, posting 14 points in 17 games of action for Team Sweden U-20 squad, including six points in seven games at the World Juniors. He has good size already, now it’s up to Holmstrom to round out his game – improving his skating is a must – and keep developing that scoring touch as he progresses.
18. (NR) Adam Marsh, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 200th overall, 2015
Marsh put himself on the radar with a 24-goal effort for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in 2014-15, earning himself a spot in the Red Wings’ draft class of 2015. So far this season, he looks to be on pace to eclipse all the marks he set last year. He has 23 goals and 19 assists through just 45 games, putting him on pace to best his line of 24-20-44 from a year ago. The 18-year-old continues to show a strong nose for the net and tenacity despite not being the biggest guy on the ice.
17. (17) Tomas Nosek, LW, 6.5C
Signed as undrafted free agent, June 2014
Nosek appears to have taken a step back in 2015-16. Granted, the Griffins as a whole have been worse this season, but Nosek has had a tough time offensively. With just 21 points in 50 games, it’s a steep decline from his production in 2014-15. Still, he remains a solid two-way presence and even earned a six game call-up from the Red Wings.
16. (19) Martin Frk, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2012
The 2015-16 season has been an enlightening one for Frk. He is currently fifth on the Griffins in scoring with 35 points and leads the team in goals with 22. He is also tied for second on the club in penalty minutes with 55, trailing only Tyler Bertuzzi. His skating has improved and he looks like he is finally delivering on some of that hype surrounding his offensive game. Perhaps Frk is finally turning a corner in his game.
15. (16) Joren van Pottelberghe, G, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall, 2015
The big, calm Swiss netminder has been all over the place in 2015-16. He began the year looking solid for Linkoping’s junior squad, sporting a 2.63 goals against average and .896 save percentage before getting a promotion to their SHL team – albeit one in name only; he did not play a game. He has been quite good on the international stage for Switzerland, though the World Junior Championships were a struggle behind an underwhelming blueline. Van Pottelberghe will return to his native Switzerland next season and likely push for a backup role on the HC Davos squad.
14. (14) Jake Paterson, G, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 80th overall, 2012
The transition from his final year of junior to the professional level was a bit rough, but Paterson may have finally found his spot. Splitting time with Jeff Lerg for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, Paterson has been a solid presence in the crease. Despite a 7-8-1 record, he sports a solid 2.47 goals against average and .918 save percentage in 17 appearances. With the jam in the crease at the AHL level, look for him to return to Toledo next season before challenging for a full-time AHL spot thereafter.
13. (15) Dominic Turgeon, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2013
The son of 1,000-point NHL scorer Pierre Turgeon, Dominic had turned heads in junior by not being a dynamic scorer, but more of a shutdown two-way center instead. That has changed in 2015-16. Taking on the captaincy, Turgeon has already hit career-highs in goals (30) and points (60) through 63 games while taking on a much bigger role with the Portland Winterhawks. Turgeon has the skills and the two-way game to go a long way in the Detroit system.
12. (5) Ryan Sproul, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2011
Sproul’s development has been both positive and frustrating at the same time. He clearly isn’t as offensively adept as he showed on the junior level, his point production dipping in each of his three full seasons in the AHL. He has, however, developed into a more well-rounded defenseman, finding consistency in his own end of the ice. He might still be a year or two away from making it to Detroit on an every night basis, but Sproul will be there at some point.
11. (20) Robbie Russo, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, August 2015
After four up-and-down seasons with the University of Notre Dame, Russo is starting to show some of the promise the New York Islanders thought he had when they drafted him back in 2011. Though not the biggest defenseman, Russo shows good grit and a willingness to get his nose dirty. He’s also shown a bit of offensive flair as a rookie for Grand Rapids, chipping in 27 points through 51 game to lead the defense.