After a long season that saw the Detroit Red Wings get bumped out of the playoffs
in the first round by the Mighty Ducks of Anahaim, top prospect Igor Grigorenko
received a serious injury in a car accident and a strong rookie performance
by Henrik Zetterberg, it´s now time to take a look at the 10 best prospects
in the organization.
During the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings selected eight players.
Only one of them has managed to crack the top 10 prospects list.
Here is a look at
the Top 10 Detroit Red Wings Prospects with new ranking and grades.
The 20-year-old right wing,
Igor Grigorenko had a very strong 2002-03 season. He was the leading
scorer with Lada in the Russian Superleague with 19 goals and 29 points in 47
regular season games. His 19 goals were also among the top three goalscorers
in the league.
His success with Lada gave him the oppertunity to make his debut with the
Russian senior national team. Grigorenko made the most of his promotion and
displayed a very good offensive game which led to 7 goals and 8 points in 17
games including 2 goals and an assist in 7 games at the 2003 WCs.
Grigorenko was also a key member of the 2003 Russian WJC gold medal winning
team as he was the leading scorer at the tournament with 6 goals and 10 points
in 6 games. His performance earned him the “Top forward” award.
Unfortunately, Grigorenko`s season had a bad ending as he was involved in
a car accident. His hopes of playing for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2003-04
season were to be postponed. Grigorenko is currently recovering from the injury
in his hometown of Lada.
“I really feel great, I want to get back to shape as soon as possible,
but I am increasing weight sizes gradually,” Grigorenko, whose broken leg
is still held into place by a Illizarov device, told Sovetsky Sport.
“The rehab process goes well. Doctors still watch me, possibly I will be
training along with the others in about two months.”
Grigorenko is the top prospect in the Wings organization. His speed, hockey
sense and scoring touch makes him a lethal offensive threat. Grigorenko will
take his time and recover in Russia during the 2003-04 season. If everything
goes as planned he will be brought over for the 2004-05 season.
2. Jiri Hudler
Detroit Red Wings first selection in the 2002 NHL draft, Jiri
Hudler, started the 2002-03 season with Vsetin of the Czech Extraliga.
Hudler continued to build on his great performance in the previous year in which
he had 46 points in 46 games as a 17-year-old. He was given even more reponsibilities
and responded by racking up 19 goals and 46 points in just 30 games.
the first 30 games Hudler decided to make a surprise move to the Ak Bars Kazan
of the Russian Superleague. He played only 12 games in which he recored 6 points.
Hudler was also a
member of both the Czech WJC team as well as the senior WC team. At the WJC
Hudler took the leading role on the team as he was the best scorer with 7 points
in 6 games.
the season Hudler was a regular member of the senior national team. His best
showing came at the right time and at the right place. At the 2003 WC in Finland
Hudler convinced the Red Wings brass that he was ready for prime time as he
recorded 6 points in 9 games.
“Jiri is a very
talented young player who has played on the Czech World Jr. Team and was the top
scorer for Vsetin of the Czech men’s league last season,” Red Wings GM Ken
Holland said in a press release. “It is time now for him to turn pro and
we’re looking forward to his further development as a young hockey player in
will now try to convince the other 29 GM´s in the league that they made a big
mistake by not selecting him in the 2002 NHL draft.
|2002/03||AK Bars Kazan||Superleague||12||1||5||6||6|
|3. Niklas Kronwall||1981-01-12||Djurgården||Elitserien||6-0||185||D||L||3||7.0|
The 2002-03 season
was a revelation for the 22-year-old Niklas
Kronwall. After a slow start Kronwall managed to pick up his game and
become one of the best defensemen in the SEL at the season’s end. He finished
the regular season with career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18)
and penalty minutes (46).
Although his regular
season was very strong, his post season was even better. He became the no.1
defenseman on Djurgården and logged
well over 20 minutes per game. His increased ice time served him well as it
boosted his confidence and made him more involved in the game. With 3 goals
and 2 assists in 12 games Kronwall was the best scoring defenseman on the team.
After the season’s
end Kronwall was rewarded the “Roland Stoltz” award as the team’s
top blueliner. ” It`s an honour. It is huge to receive the award from Lasse
Björn och ‘Tjalle’ Mild”, said Kronwall.
But his season didn´t
end there. His outstanding performances with Djurgården earned him a spot on
the Swedish national team at the WC. He played in five games and was very effective
when given the opportunity.
His encouraging development
during the season convinced the Red Wings brass that he was ready for bigger
challenges. He was signed to a two-year contract at the deadline and will try
to make the team out of camp, but he will most likely spend a season with Grand
Rapids in the AHL.
Kronwall is the top
defensive prospect in the oraganization. He has great skating ability, hockey
sense, passing skills, shot and most importantly, a big heart and a desire to
Liv didn´t have his best season this year. After a couple of injuries Liv
couldn´t find his game again. His statistics fell like a rock after the first
20 games. He finished the season with a 2.73 GAA, 90.33 SV and 3 shotouts. Although
giving up some easy goals and playing rather unspectacularly, Liv was still
among the best goalies in the league.
Liv seemed to be a
bit annoyed and wasn´t as sharp as he had been for the past two years. He was
giving up far too many rebounds, getting caught out of position, making bad
decisions with the stick and so on.
This resulted in fewer
games with the National team as Liv was forced to watch the WCs from his home
Nevertheless the 22-year-old
goalie is still the best netminding prospect in the oraganization. He has the
potential to become a starter in the NHL some day.
It may take another
two to three years but if he keeps his head up and continues to work hard the
chance will come.
In his first professional
season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL, Tomas
Kopecky started slowly. “The game is pretty fast here,” he said in an interview
with Mark Newman. “Everything happens so quick that you don’t have too much
time to think about things.”
But as the season
progressed so did Kopecky. He played his best hockey of the season in the month
of February 2003 as he earned the “AHL Rookie of the Month” award.
With 11 goals and 30 points in 38 games, Kopecky was one of the best players
on a hot Griffins team.
He finished the
regular season with solid numbers, 17 goals and 38 points in 70 games. He also
had a very good plus-18 rating which was second among the AHL rookies.
regular season was a good one, the same can´t be said about his playoff performance.
He failed to impress the coaching staff enough to let him play in all the games.
In the 14 games that he was dressed, Kopecky didn´t manage a single point. This
was an obvious setback for the young forward who will try to take on a bigger
role in the upcoming season.
Kopecky is one of
only few Red Wings prospects who has size, grit and offensive potential. His
main assets are his great size and offensive instincts which enable him to control
the play down low.
He is still another
year or two away from a regular spot with Detroit.
Last year’s other
second round pick, Tomas
Fleischmann, didn´t get as much attention as Hudler at the 2002 draft, whom
the Red Wings selected five spots ahead. But after his first season in the WHL
with Moose Jaw, Fleischmann clearly made a name for himself as a respectable
the season carefully, learning about the game. It was after a successful showing
at the WJC for team Czech Republic that Fleischmann started to make an impact
in Moose Jaw. He finished the regular season with 21 goals and 71 points in
65 games making him the second best rookie scorer in the WHL.
As the playoffs started,
Fleischmann was ready to take on another challenge. He continued his hot streak
and was the go-to guy during the 12 games that Moose Jaw played. His 4 goals
and 15 points in just 12 games was good enough to tie for the 11th place in
the scoring race.
Fleischmann is just
one of several recent Red Wings draft picks who has emerged as potential draft
steals. The names of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Grigorenko, Hudler are always mentioned
when it comes to proving the Red Wings success in finding very good talent in
beyond the first round of the draft.
After his strong rookie
campaign in the WHL, Tomas Fleischmann can be added to that list. He will have
to continue his development and will most likely earn a contract with the Red
Wings after the season. He is still another two to three years away from the
first selection (62nd overall), Jim
Howard enjoyed an excellent season with the University of Maine. He split
the starting job with sophomore Frank Doyle. Howard played in 21 games posting
a 2.45 GAA and 91.6 SV. During the season Howard also managed to set a University
of Maine record with a shutout streak of 193:45 and tied a school single-season
record with three shutouts.
excellent play earned him the Hockey East’s Rookie of the Year and a selection
to the All-Rookie Team.
the season Howard also learned that hockey isn´t always easy. His performance
at the WJC wasn´t convincing and made some scouts doubt his pro potential.
returning to Maine, Howard had problems of getting back into the winning mode as
a result of his poor WJC performance.
whole his season was still a step in the right direction for the young netminder.
Howard has the potential to one day challenge for a starting job in the NHL.
he has to graduate from U. of Maine where he has three more years of studies.
Red Wings brass has indicated that they will allow him to develop at his own
pace in college.
a college player, we can bank him away and let him develop,” General
Manager Ken Holland said. “There’s not a rush to get him out.”
8. Drew MacIntyre
The 20-year-old canadian
goalie, Drew MacIntyre
finally had a good defense ahead of him. For the first time he was give the
chance to show how good he really is. During the regular season Macintyre was
one of the best goalies in the league. He finished the regular season with career
highs in wins (31), GAA (2.75) and SV (90.8).
His strong play earned
him a spot on the Lebel Conference All-Star Team and in the Hershey Cup.
After an impressive
regular season MacIntyre was set to take charge in the playoffs and take a run
at the championship title. But the playoffs proved to be a disappointment. The
Sherbrooke Castors were eliminated in the the second round and MacIntyre´s play
was under criticism. In 12 post-season games he posted 4.07 GAA and a .854 save
After the season MacIntyre
was still awarded with a three-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings. He
is now set to turn pro, most likely in the ECHL since the Grand Rapids already
have a strong goaltending cast which includes last year’s AHL goalie of the
year, Marc Lamothe and sophomore Joey MacDonald.
MacIntyre is a strong
person mentally and that might eventually be the decisive element in his quest
for an NHL job.
9. Andreas Jämtin
Jämtin spent a year in the Allsvenskan after making his debut in the Elitserien
the previous year. The demotion served him well as he excelled offensivelly
on a young AIK-team.
Jämtin ended the year
with 25 goals and 46 points in 56 games. He also led the team in +/- with +22
and was also the leading player in penalty minutes with 145.
During the season
Jämtin was also selected to participate at the WJC where he was expected to
be one of the leaders on the team. In the pre- tournament games he forfilled
the expectation, but as the real tournament started, Jämtin wasn´t as effective.
With only one goal and 5 points in 6 games Jämtin´s performance was a disappointment.
During this summer
Jämtin was attending his second mini-camp for prospects with other Red Wings
draftees. And for the second time he displayed his pro-style game as he was one
of the best players at the camp.
Jämtin will spend
the 2003-04 season with HV-71 in the Eliteleague where he is expected to play
on one of the top two lines.
If the season proves
to be a successful one, then Jämtin might be ready to move over the pond and
take his development to the AHL where he will spend a year or two.
10. Miroslav Blatak
Czech defenseman, Miroslav Blatak has been progressing quietly in the Extraliga
since being drafted in the third round of the 2002 NHL draft.
the last season Blatak improved his overall game. He became more confident in
the defensive zone while contributing offensively. He ended the regular season
with career highs in goals (4), assists (12), points (16) and penalty minutes
who still has to make an impact with the senior national team could be looking
for a career season in the Czech Extraliga.
could also be his last before moving to North America and (most likely) the
Grand Rapids of the AHL. Blatak is a solid two-way defenseman who has good overall
skills. He has the potential to be a top six defenseman in the NHL one day.
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