The Detroit Red Wings have been the NHL’s most successful team both during the regular season and in the playoffs during the 1990′s. However, that success has come with a price. The Red Wings have consistently drafted very low in the entry drafts and traded away numerous draft picks in order to continue to win and remain a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
While this strategy has worked, the number and quality of young prospects in the Detroit system is at an all time low. The Red Wings are at the bottom of the organization rankings and there is little light at the end of the tunnel. The future may be bleak to say the least in HockeyTown.
Though the Red Wings may be behind, a few rookies have already made an impact on Detroit’s NHL roster. Nineteen year old Jiri Fischer and twenty year old Yuri Butsayev both made the Red Wing’s opening day roster and have stuck with the team beyond the league ten game limit. Each will likely remain in Detroit for the balance of the year.
As for Detroit’s other prospects, while there are few blue-chippers left after the above mentioned, here is where they are and what they are doing this season.
1. Jiri Fischer, D
Detroit NHL 10 0 0 0 +1 10
Jiri made Detroit’s roster following training camp as many expected that he would. He has showed continued improvement and is averaging just over 9 minutes a game. Fischer has survived the dreaded 10 game cut the all CHL prospects must endure and he is expected to remain with the big club for the balance of the season.
2. Jesse Wallin, D
Cincinnati AHL 13 1 1 2 -2 4
Jesse was a victim of the numbers game in Detroit. Though he is more polished and experienced than Jiri Fischer and ahead of Yan Gobulovsky on the depth chart, Wallin was the only player that could be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers. Another consideration was the clubs feeling that he needed more ice time than he could get in Detroit. While ready for duty in the NHL, it will likely be one more year before Jesse gets his chance.
3. Yan Gobulovsky , D
Detroit NHL 3 0 0 0 even 2
Yan is going through an almost unique situation in Detroit. He is the 9th defenseman on the team. He can not be sent down without clearing waivers ( The Red Wings believe he will be claimed ) It took 18 games for the 23 year old to crack the lineup but he should still see 40-50 games this season. Though Detroit feels that while Yan will likely never be a top 4 defenseman, he is an NHL defenseman that is important to their future. Sooner or later Detroit is going to have to make a decision. Play him or trade him. I’d say it is 50/50 right now depending on injuries and what they can get for him in return.
4. Yuri Butsayev, C
Detroit NHL 19 1 1 2 +1 8
Yuri has played in all of the Red Wing’s games thus far. The team is impressed with hustle and heart While Detroit continues to battle injuries up front, Butsayev will remain in the lineup. I expect him to spend at least some time in the minors this season when the team gets healthy however. Though he has not looked out of place, his skating and pucks skills still need work and it remains to be seen how he will handle the long North American schedule.
5. Jason Elliot, G
Manitoba IHL 13 7-3-2 2.63 0.918
Though Jason struggled a bit in training camp this fall, his play thus far in the IHL has been solid to say the least. He has briefly taken over the #1 goalie position from fellow Red Wing Manny Legace in Manitoba. The Red Wing’s expect him to play at least one more season in the minors before he is ready for the NHL.
6. Darryl Laplante, C
Cincinnati AHL 15 7 4 11 +3 27
Darryl had a good training camp this fall and was the last forward cut by the team. While primarily a defensive role player, Laplante has chipped in with some more offense this year. Currently, Darryl is Detroit’s leading offensive prospect in the minor leagues and has the best chance to earn a full time position with the Red Wings next season.
7. Philippe Audet, LW
Cincinnati AHL 9 1 0 1 -4 10
Phillipe was returned the AHL after a very average training camp. He is off to a slow start in Cincinnati as his special teams play has been cut down considerably with his new team. Audet is in the 3rd and final season of his entry level contract with the Red Wings and must show a bit more than he is to remain with the organization after this season.
8. Maxim Kuznetzov, D
Cincinnati AHL 11 2 1 1 + 3 4
Though Kuznetsov show great improvement this season during training camp he has struggled to remain in the lineup this season with the Mighty Ducks. Another Detroit prospect that is playing in the 3rd year of his contract, Maxim is going to have to finish the year strongly to remain in Detroit’s future plans.
9. Ryan Barnes, LW
Barrie OHL 6 3 2 15 0 32
Barnes has always had an edge to his game leading the OHL in penalty minute last season ( 399 ). However, the league felt that he went way over board in an incident earlier this season. With his team engaged in a full scale brawl following some dangerous stick work by their opponents, Ryan took it upon himself to even the score. Following the incident, 13 players from both teams were suspended. Barnes took the worst of it however when he received a 25 game suspension. The Red Wings took the opportunity to send Ryan to Sweden to develop and refine his skills much like they did early in Darren McCarty’s career.
10. Johan Forsander, LW
HV 71 SWE 19 4 8 12 6 4
Johan is having the strongest season of his career offensively thus far already matching last season’s output in goals, assists and points. This year Forsander has been given a bigger role on the team and ran with it. While he still needs to add muscle to his frame, the former captain of the Swedish Junior team is projected as a future role player in NHL.
11. Pavel Datsyuk, C
Dynamo-Energiya Rus n/a 1 3 4 n/a n/a
The Red Wings are very excited about this young, skilled center. They were very impressed with him at rookie camp and believe that in a few years when he makes the trip over the pound he has a chance to be an NHL player. Datsyuk has tremendous skill but is lacking in the size department. He has been playing this season as part of the Russian National team in addition to his parent club. In the recent Karjala Tournament in Finland, Pavel had two assists in the three games. Jim Nill said this summer that he needs some time to adjust to the culture shock of North America and that the organization had no problem bringing him over in two or three years.
12. Jari Tolsa, LW
Frolunda Swe 4 0 0 0 0 0
Frolunda Swe-jr 12 3 16 19 10 31
After taking role players and grinders throughout the 90′s, the Red Wings decided that it was time to start drafting the more risky skilled players in 1999. As a result their first selection of the 99 draft ( 120th overall ) was Jari Tolsa. A smallish, skilled forward, Tolsa has great hands, quickness and reflexes. The biggest drawback is his 6-0 160 lb frame. If he can overcome his size and put on some muscle, the Wings feel that he has the skill to play in the NHL someday. This year Jari is off to a strong start in the points department but the Detroit would like to see more goals out of the youngster. Tolsa’s play earned him a call up to Frolunda’s Elite League team but limited ice time kept him off of the score sheet.
13. Andrei Maximenko, LW
Soviet Wings Rus n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Anderi was a player that the Wing’s had scouted at the four nation tournament last year. The catch was the most of the other scouts thought the Maximenko was going to be too young for the draft in June because his birthday was listed incorrectly. The Wings had done their homework however and think that they stole a quality skilled player in the 5th round. In fact the Wing’s assistant GM Jim Nill said that Andrei has a the skill to be a Pavel Demitra type player if he can over come his lack of size ( he is listed at 5-11 172 ). This season Maximenko is again playing for the Soviet Wings in the Russian 1st Division. The league is not that well covered here in North America so information is hard to come by. If you can help out in that area, drop me a line.
14. John Wikstrom, D
Louisiana ECHL 10 0 0 0 -4 4
John was a player that Detroit selected in the 5th round of the 1997 draft due to his size and potential. At time he was playing for Lulea in the Swedish Elite league but was not getting a lot of playing time. The Wings hoped that Wikstrom could grow into his body and become a quality NHL defenseman. His progress has been slow to say the least. But, there has been progress. After his second training camp this fall, Detroit decided that it would be in John’s best interest to remain in North America this season. The problem was that the Red Wing’s did not have a dedicated AHL affiliate and the Mighty Ducks had limited the players that Detroit could send to Cincinnati. As a result, the Red Wings assigned John to the ECHL but as of November 14th had recalled him. This could be an effort to allow Wikstrom to practice with the team or to find him a new home in the AHL or IHL.
15. Tomek Valtonen, LW
Tomek plays a North American style game and as a result was given the nickname Animal by his European teammates. Last season, Valtonen brought his game to the Canadian Hockey League with mixed results. Tomek suffered a concussion and missed much of the year. During the 40 or so games that he did play, Valtonen scored only 8 goals and 24 points. Though Tomek appears to have trouble finishing, Detroit’s management is holding out hope that those skills will come and Valtonen will become a Magnus Arvedson type player. As for his season this year, he returned to Finland to play with Jokerit. Detroit wants him to work on the skill aspects of the game.
16. Adam Deleeuw, LW 9 1 4 5 1 20
Toronto OHL 11 4 5 9 +1 20
Adam suffered a shoulder injury during the Red Wing’s rookie camp that forced him to miss Detroit’s primary training camp and the first 15 games of the OHL season. Despite the injury, Adam’s strong performance last season resulted in his being named captain of the team this season. The shoulder problem appears to set Deleeuw’s progress back a bit as he has been slow to regain last season’s form however. He has improved his play in the last 3 games getting more than half of his points in that span. In no time Adam will be leading his team both in the room and on the stats sheet.
17. Aren Miller, G
Cincinnati AHL 4 241 2.74 0-2-1 0.889
Thus far this season Aren Miller has been forced to take a back seat to Mighty Duck’s prospect Gregg Naumenko. Only starting three games and seeing action in another, Aren must wait his turn and be ready when called upon. Detroit will likely have a bigger roll in mind for him when the Red Wings move into their new AHL franchise in late 2000.
18. Calle Steen, W
Mora Swe-1 11 2 2 4 +4 22
Detroit was looking for another Tomas Holmstrom type player when they drafted Calle Steen in 1998. The Red Wing knew that if Calle ever developed into an NHL player that it would take several seasons. Tough it is still too early to call, Calle has some work to do. Considered a better skater than Holmstrom was, Steen’s weakness is his finishing skills. Calle made the move to from Hammarby to Mora of the Swedish 1st Division over the summer and though the jury is still out, Detroit will be patient with this prospect.
19. Kent McDonell, RW
Guelph OHL 19 12 8 20 -2 47
Kent was re-drafted in the 1999 by Detroit after being taken in the 97 version by Carolina. The Canes could not sign the gritty forward and McDonell had no choice but to hope another team gave him a chance. The Red Wings decided to roll the dice. McDonell was actually drafted higher the 2nd time around which is very uncommon. After playing for the Canadian World Junior team in 1999, Kent hoped to make the jump into the AHL this season. He did not and was returned to junior as an overager.
20. Henrik Zetterberg, LW
Timra Swe 20 11 2 13 +8 20
Henrik is a very talented player. If he can overcome his smallish size he has a good chance to develop into a NHL player. He is already close to matching his total goal output of last season and despite his age is the offensive leader on his team. He will likely transfer to the Swedish Elite league next year.