10. (12) Vili Saarijarvi, D, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2015
Saarijarvi appears to be a quick learner, because his transition to the OHL has been a strong one so far in 2015-16. Making his debut with the Flint Firebirds, the diminutive defenseman has 11 goals and 37 points in 51 games, displaying the offensive talent that made him a third-round pick in 2015. In addition, while top scorer Will Bitten (2016) sports a -26 rating, Saarijarvi is only -1 for the undermanned squad. He still has quite a way to go in terms of developing an all-around defensive game, but it appears the Red Wings may have found an offensive gem on the back end.
9. (NR) Jared Coreau, G, 7.0C
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2013
Coreau is built more like a linebacker than a typical goalie, but the Northern Michigan standout has developed into a stabilizing force for the Griffins. He sits among the AHL league leaders this seasons in both goals-against and in save percentage. The latter mark, currently at .928, is a highly-encouraging marker as he trails only Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and veteran Peter Budaj among players with 30 games played. Coreau has no clear path to an NHL job, to be sure, but he has established himself as a capable AHL starter this season, which is no small feat.
8. (10) Zach Nastasiuk, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 48th overall, 2013
The transition from being a standout player at the junior level to being a quality player at the AHL level has been a tough one for Nastasiuk. He hasn’t managed to find his role with the Griffins, managing just four assists in 15 games while battling injury and ice time struggles. He has since been re-assigned to Toledo of the ECHL, where he seems to be finding his footing once again. With eight goals and 17 points in 22 games, it’s clear that Nastasiuk has the talent and the demeanor. Hopefully he will use this experience to come back strong and find his place in Grand Rapids for 2016-17.
7. (11) Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 58th overall, 2013
Another youngster in his first full professional season, Bertuzzi seems to be finding his niche even if his entire game isn’t coming together quite yet. Bertuzzi showed a surprising scoring touch in his final junior season, but has always displayed a physical, agitator’s game and that is coming through in spades for Grand Rapids. With nine goals and 22 points in 51 games, Bertuzzi is finding his offense here and there, but leads the team with 74 penalty minutes as he is totally unafraid to mix it up and get his hands dirty. Even if the offense isn’t there, Bertuzzi may have a role going forward as an agitator.
6. (7) Joe Hicketts, D, 7.0C
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2014
Size and injury concerns kept Hicketts off the radar early in his junior career, but it seems as though he has finally shaken those questions to become a very dangerous offensive defenseman. Hicketts is at a point-per-game pace yet again while captaining the Victoria Royals of the WHL, sporting 52 points in 52 games to this point. Hicketts has also become a standout on the international level for Team Canada. Though he will likely have to answer those same questions as he progresses to the professional level, Hicketts has the talent to be a force in the future.
5. (6) Xavier Ouellet, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 48th overall, 2011
Like the aforementioned Sproul, Ouellet’s development has gone exactly as planned though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An offensive defenseman coming out of junior, he has struggled to find his offensive game at the AHL level, though his 17 points in 37 games this year matches his career-best in less than half the time it took him to do it the first time. A fantastic skater with power play ability, Ouellet has rounded his game out a bit more overall. He will need to find that offense if he hopes to be a fixture in Detroit, but he should reach the NHL before long.
4. (9) Andreas Athanasiou, LW, 7.0B
Drafted 4th round, 110th overall 2012
Despite battling injury and call-ups/demotions, the 2015-16 season has been a positive one for Athanasiou. He got an early audition with the Red Wings, tallying a pair of points in seven games before being sent back to Grand Rapids. He missed some time, then continued to produce with eight goals and 16 points in 26 games. Back in Detroit he has shown the potential to be an NHL weapon. The future for Athanasiou is bright and it won’t be long before he is a full-timer on the NHL level.
3. (4) Anthony Mantha, RW, 8.0D
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2013
His development may not be going as quickly as some may have originally thought, but Anthony Mantha is slowly learning his way through the professional game. After a somewhat disappointing 15-goal, 33-point effort as a freshman in 2014-15, Mantha has beaten those totals in 10 fewer games in 2015-16. That’s not to say that this season hasn’t been rough – both Mantha and Grand Rapids started the season poorly – but it should be seen as a positive given where he is in his development. He should still should be a top-six fixture for Detroit in the future.
2. (3) Yevgeny Svechnikov, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, 2015
The latest top prospect added to the Red Wings pile of them, Svechnikov has been a force all year for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. With 30 goals and 69 points through 45 games, he is already at higher per-game levels than his first season in 2014-15. At just 19 years old and with a glut of talent ahead of him in the organization, Svechnikov will continue to dominate the Q for the foreseeable future before moving on to a top-six role in Detroit.
1. (1) Dylan Larkin, C, 9.0B
Drafted 1st round, 15th overall, 2014
What can you say about Larkin that hasn’t been said about him already this season? He has been absolutely as advertised and more. He plays on the Red Wings’ top line on a nightly basis, playing in all key roles. He’s second in the NHL among rookie scorers, behind only Chicago’s Artemi Panarin who just happens to have the fortune of playing next to the league’s leading scorer in Patrick Kane and is nearly five years older. Larkin is the new Steve Yzerman, the future captain and life-long Red Wing who will be the face of the franchise the second Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg step away if not sooner.