Red Wings Top 20 prospects

By Zoran Manojlovic

After an unspectacular 2004 NHL Entry draft where the Detroit Red Wings added eight players, but none in the first two rounds of the draft, it’s time for a reevaluation of the top 20 prospects rankings in the organisation.

Only two of the eight selected prospects made it on the new top 20 list. Evan McGrath who was selected with the team’s second choice, 128th overall is the highest ranked newcomer, while Johan Franzèn, (1st choice, 97th overall) is ranked at the second half of the list.

Click here to see the previous rankings.

Red Wings Top 20 Prospects at a glance

1. Igor Grigorenko, RW
2. Niklas Kronwall, D
3. Jiri Hudler, C
4. Jimmy Howard, G
5. Joey MacDonald, G
6. Stefan Liv, G
7. Valtteri Filppula, C
8. Miroslav Blatak, D
9. Andreas Jamtin, RW
10. Tomas Kopecky, LW
11. Derek Meech, D
12. Kyle Quincey, D
13. Jari Tolsa, LW
14. Evan McGrath, C
15. Johan Franzen, C
16. Nathan Robinson, W
17. Eric Himelfarb, C
18. Drew MacIntyre, G
19. Todd Jackson, RW
20. Danny Groulx, D

1. Igor Grigorenko, RW

Igor Grigorenko recovered successfully after a terrible car accident and is now ready to take his hockey career to the next level. Arguably the best prospect in the organisation, Grigorenko will spend another year of seasoning in Russia where he will be able to get the right amount of ice-time as well as a chance to once again represent his country at the international stage.

Grigorenko is a very gifted young player who possesses impressive offensive talent and likes to go on solo rushes and challenge the defenseman. He has great overall speed and is very quick on the skates and loves to make shifty moves at high speed.

2. Niklas Kronwall, D

Kronwall had a very good season last year both with the Grand Rapids in the AHL as well as with Detroit in the NHL, until he unfortunately got injured in a pre game warm up. He showed enough of poise and potential to be considered a future cornerstone of the Red Wings defense.

Kronwall is a small-sized defenseman with exceptional offensive skills. He is very smart and possesses great hockey sense which compensates for his small frame. He is a great skater with good lateral movement and phenomenal speed. He plays with a lot of heart and is aggressive in the corners.

3. Jiri Hudler, C

Jiri Hudler had a solid season with Grand Rapids where he was among the team leaders in scoring during the regular season with 49 points in 57 games. He did also put in a good playoff performance as he led the team in scoring with 6 points in 5 games. His hockey sense and offensive ability will earn himself a spot on the red Wings roster when he matures physically and develops a better two-way game.

Hudler is a dazzling puckhandler who has a phenomenal offensive arsenal. He is a good skater with great foot-speed which he uses to avoid opponents in the corners effectively. His god-given hockey sense, on-ice vision and playmaking ability make him an offensive threat on every shift.

4. Jimmy Howard, G

Howard emerged as the top contender for the job as the goalie of the future for the Red Wings during the previous season. He took charge of the starting job with University of Maine with strong and consistent play throughout the season. He was also leading Maine to a Hockey East Championship with a semifinal shutout of Boston University and a memorable triple-overtime win over Massachusetts. Great attitude and sound skills makes him the top goalie prospect within the organisation.

Howard is a big butterfly goalie who covers the net well and plays with poise. He has very good balance and skating ability. A natural talent, Howard shows good concentration and focus while playing. He possesses very quick reflexes both with his glove hand and with his pads.

5. Joey MacDonald, G

MacDonald has come a long way after signing a free agent contract back in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings. At the time he was though to be a solid goalie with a minor league potential, but his play during the last two seasons have changed that. He is now the third goalie in the system and could very well get his first taste of the NHL in the upcoming season. He will be the starter for the Griffins and is expected to be one of the top goalies in the AHL.

A good sized goalie that has strong positioning and very fast reflexes, both with his pads and glove hand. He reads the game well and is very calm. He is very focused and has a good mental approach to the game. He has also proved that he can maintain his high level of consistency in the AHL.

6. Stefan Liv, G

The 24-year-old had a strong regular season with HV-71 which he led to regular season championship title. But he managed to save the best for last as he was simply spectacular during the 2004 playoffs in the Swedish Elitserien. Ha set a record with 4 shutouts in the finals against Färjestad and was arguably the best player on the ice. Liv needs to continue to develop and take back the starting job with the national team in order to climb the charts.

Liv is a good sized butterfly style goalie who likes to challenge the shooters. He covers the net well and is very agile. His main assets are his exceptionally quick glove hand and pads which allow him to make jaw-dropping saves.

7. Valtteri Filppula, C

Detroit Red Wings third round pick from 2002, Valtteri Filppula broke through in the Finnish SM-Liga during the previous season and was one of the top-3 centers on a strong team. He performed very well throughout the entire season and was also a vital part of the Finnish U-20 national team success at the 2004 WJC. Speed and skills make Filppula a good prospect who projects as a second or third line center at the NHL level.

Valtteri is a very good skater that plays a competitive game with a big heart. He is a good offensive player with solid overall skills although his numbers didn’t show that this year in the Finnish junior league. He possesses good hockey sense and soft hands.

8. Miroslav Blatak, D

Blatak is one of the better prospects within the Red Wings organization, although he hasn’t earned any rave review from the media. He has spent the last four years with Zlin in the Czech Extraliga where he has steadily climbed the charts and is now a top-3 defenseman with the team. Last season, he played a vital part on the Zlin´s championship winning team with 6 points in 17 playoff games. Blatak’s skills and smarts are his best attributes. He now has to decide whether or not he is ready for the pro ranks in North America.

He is a good skater who has quick feet and good overall speed. He is very mobile and has good lateral movement. Blatak is a very smart defenseman who plays with his head. He reads the play well and is very calm with the puck. He carries the puck with confidence and isn’t afraid of joining the rush.

9. Andreas Jämtin, RW

Andreas Jämtin made a solid comeback to Elitserien during the past season with HV-71. After a great season in the second tier league with AIK, he was ready for regular ice-time in Elitserien. Mostly playing on the third line, Jämtin put up solid numbers (18 points in 39 games) during the regular season, as well as setting a new record in PIM’s with 105. During the playoffs, Jämtin put in another gear and was a key contributor for HV-71 in their race for the championship. He had 6 points in 16 games as well as 68 PIM’s. Hard worker who has good skating ability and puck skills could be a good third line winger down the road.

Jämtin is a very good skater who has great speed and quickness. He is a very aggressive forechecker who likes to get under the skin of his opponents. Although not being overly big Jämtin is a capable hitter who enjoys this aspect of the game. He possesses very soft hands and is able to make things happen offensively.

10. Tomas Kopecky, LW

Kopecky came to the camp out of shape and everything went downhill from there. He also battled injury problems and had a very disappointing season with the Grand Rapids in the AHL. He desperately needs to have a consistent season with the Griffins next season. He still has the skills that made him a second round pick in the 2000 NHL entry draft, but he needs to show that he is willing to pay the price to become a NHL regular as well.

Kopecky is a big center that combines great size and reach with phenomenal hockey sense. He is a very good stickhandler and likes to do unexpected things with the puck. He is a very smart and creative player with the puck and always looks to generate offense.

11. Derek Meech, D

Meech shined as one of the brightest Red Wings prospects during the 2003-04 season. Not only was he among the best defensemen in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels where he served as the team captain, but he also put on a show during the WJC and was among the better players on the Canadian silver winning team. He is expected to compete for ice time in the AHL in the upcoming season.

Meech is a highly skilled defenseman with superb offensive arsenal. He possesses great skating ability with phenomenal speed and lateral movement and is willing to join the offensive attack. He has strong passing skills and a well-developed hockey sense that allows him to make key plays on the power play.

12. Kyle Quincey, D

Kyle went on having a great year with the Mississauga Ice Dogs in the OHL after an early season trade with the London Knights. He quickly emerged as the top defenseman on the team and logged on a huge amount of ice time which resulted in career numbers for the 19-year-old defenseman. One more season of major junior is scheduled for Quincey who needs to continue developing at the same level in order to earn a pro contract.

Quincey is a good sized and has good mobility and speed. He plays aggressive, defensive-minded hockey. He works hard and is a true team player.

13. Jari Tolsa, LW

During the regular season Tolsa was among the best players with Frölunda where he finished with 28 points in 50 games. He has had some problems with injuries during the last three seasons with Frölunda in Elitserien and should be ready for a breakthrough this upcoming season, according to Håkan Andersson, Red Wings chief European scout. He expects a huge season from the 23-year-old winger.

Tolsa is a great team player with great work ethic. He gives 110 percent every time he steps out on the ice. He is an aggressive forechecker and capable hitter although not being big framed. He is a good skater who has quick feet and a big stride. Tolsa is a smart player who has very good hockey sense and great playmaking ability.

14. Evan McGrath, C

McGrath had a disappointing season with the Kitchener Rangers, where he only had 15 goals and 51 points in 68 games during the regular season. His inconsistent play made his stock fall drastically during the season and he eventually ended up being a fourth round pick after being touted as a sure-fire first rounder in the pre season talks.

McGrath is a solid sized center has very good hockey sense and scoring instincts. He is a very good skater who has a quick first step and plays a speed game. He is a slick puck handler who has good one-on-one instincts and is effective when on the attack. He displays a good attitude and is a hardworking center that is also responsible defensively, although this is the area that he needs to work on the most.

15. Johan Franzèn, C

Franzèn has had a strong season in Sweden where he was among the best forwards in the entire league and was also a member of the Swedish national team. He was a top-2 line center in the elite league but is projected to play as a third to fourth line role player in the NHL.

The 6’2, 207-pound center is a solid skater who has good top speed and agility. He possesses good hockey sense and sees the ice well. He is a sound two-way player who is responsible defensively and is also alert offensively. He has a good wrist shot, but isn’t a big time scorer. He is smart and uses his size to his advantage.

16. Nathan Robinson, LW

Robinson started the 2003-04 season on fire, earning a five-game stint with the Red Wings. After making his NHL debut, he returned to the AHL and continued to play well, being named to the AHL Canadian All-Star team. Unfortunately he pulled his groin while competing in the fastest skater competition, and scored only 10 points in the last 24 games of the season. He needs to continue honing his skills in the AHL for another one or two seasons before competing for a regular spot in the NHL.

Robinson has blazing speed, but his hands have not been able to keep up to his feet. He relies on his speed to create his scoring chances more so than his puck handling skills or shot, which are mostly average.

17. Eric Himelfarb, C

Himelfarb had a very good season with Kingston of the OHL where he led the team in scoring with 107 points in 67 games. His career season numbers were good enough for a fourth place overall in regular season scoring in the OHL. He also added 4 goals and 8 points in five games during the 2004 playoffs. After the season he signed a three-year contract with Detroit and was promoted to the Grand Rapids where he finished the season with respectable 5 points in 7 games. Expect him to be among the leading scorers for the Griffins in the upcoming season.

Himelfarb is a small center who has very good skating ability with great top speed and very quick feet. He has good hockey sense and is a good playmaker. He is a strong player who enjoys the physical aspects of the game and isn’t afraid of getting his nose dirty. He is also a good scorer who has a natural scoring touch.

18. Drew MacIntyre, G

MacIntyre had a good start to the season with Toledo of the ECHL, starting 11 games with a 6-4 winning record. Unfortunately his season was cut short by a hernia surgery in December which disabled him from playing more during the season. He is still has a lot of talent and potential and will most likely be a back-up in the AHL in the upcoming season.

MacIntyre is highly talented netminder who has good skating ability and great work ethic. He possesses an excellent left hand glove and is able to make great close-range saves. He likes to challenge the shooters and is a good puckhandler, not allowing many rebounds.

19. Todd Jackson, RW

Jackson had a career season with University of Maine where he served as a team captain. In 44 games he recorded 21 goals and 33 points which was good enough for a third place on the team. He will have to prove that he is ready for the next step in his development and fight for ice time in the AHL with the Grand Rapids in the upcoming season.

Jackson is a great skater with top-notch speed and quickness. He is a tremendous team player who works hard all over the ice and leads by example. He sees the ice pretty well and is able to contribute offensively. Mainly a defensive forward, he is very valuable on the penalty-killing unit and is able to log on tons of minutes.

20. Danny Groulx, D

In 2003-04, Groulx was thrust into a top-four role as injuries in Detroit forced callups from Grand Rapids. He doubled his offensive totals with 21 points and led the team in plus/minus. Groulx has still long ways to go before he can challenge for a regular spot in the NHL. He will be a top-4 defenseman in the AHL next season and hopefully find his offensive game.

Groulx has very good all-around strength and uses it to his advantage to out-muscle opposing forwards along the boards. His offensive instincts are very good as he demonstrated with monster numbers in the QMJHL.

Matt MacInnis contributed to the article. Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.