The Detroit Red Wings stuck to the plan that has helped them succeed in the past, with the majority of their 2005 NHL Entry Draft selections coming from Europe. The Wings, aware of their aging defensive corps, opted for mobile and defensive-minded rearguards to fill future holes in the lineup. Jakub Kindl was Detroit’s first-round pick (their first in the past three seasons) and he could develop into a solid NHL defenseman. Most teams shied away from the big Czech because of his trouble adjusting to the North American game, but he could prove them all wrong with a quick turnaround.
The club did offer up a few surprises, selecting a couple of lanky European forwards that could make a smooth transition from the European leagues. As always, the Wings also selected a couple small, speedy wingers with great offensive upside. Few clubs have such a strong track record helping undersized wingers excel at the professional level. Overall, it was a solid draft for the Red Wings, and they were able to address several needs in their prospect system while adding some intriguing talent to watch for the future.
Jakub Kindl, D – Kitchener, OHL
Round 1 – 19th overall
Born: 02.10.87 Height: 6’2 Weight: 199
Upon Jakub Kindl’s arrival in the OHL last season, he was expected to have a huge impact along the Kitchener Rangers blueline. Prior to the season, several scouts predicted that Kindl would be one of the top picks in the 2005 NHL draft. His transition to the North American game proved to be more difficult than expected, as he had a difficult time adjusting to the speed and rough play of the Ontario Hockey League. Plagued by inconsistency, Kindl’s stock dropped as the season went on, finishing the year with 14 points in 62 games for the Rangers. He was selected 19th overall by the Red Wings, their highest selection since Martin Lapointe went 10th overall in 1991.
Despite his troubles last season, Kindl has good size, skates well with the puck and makes smart decisions in his own end. Possessing a booming shot from the point and good offensive instincts, the Red Wings are expecting him to follow in the large footsteps of fellow Czech Jiri Fischer. Defensively, he had difficulty facing aggressive forechecking, but he adjusted to that over the course of the season and his play should improve next year. Kindl needs to improve his positional play, as he suffered defensive lapses at times that let opposing forwards generate quality scoring chances. He doesn’t shy away from physical play, but he has to get bigger and improve his conditioning to handle the grueling North American season.
Kindl benefited from his experience last season and should make a bigger impact for the Rangers in the fall. He projects to be a top-four defender in the National Hockey League, and possesses the skill and potential to develop into a dependable professional defenseman.
Justin Abdelkader, LW – Cedar Rapids, USHL
Round 2 – 42nd overall
Born: 02.25.87 Height: 6’1 Weight: 195
Justin Abdelkader finished up a strong high school career two seasons ago for Muskegon Mona Shores High School, where he was named the 2004 recipient of Michigan’s Mr. Hockey Award, which recognizes the top high school player in the state. His strong play continued last year, as he was a major contributor to the success of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and their capturing of the Clark Cup (USHL Championship). He scored 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists) in 60 games last year, good enough for third on the team. Abdelkader also appeared as a member of Team USHL at the 2005 USHL Prospects/All-Star game.
Abdelkader is an excellent skater and has a nose for the net. The majority of his goals last season came around the slot, and he’s able to get his strong shot off with a very quick release. A physical forward that plays effectively at both ends of the ice, Abdelkader has a great attitude and inspirational work ethic. He needs to mature mentally and increase his awareness on the ice to be successful at the collegiate level, but the gritty winger has proven to be a valuable contributor everywhere he’s played thus far.
Abdelkader is slated to play for the Michigan State University Spartans this fall.
Christofer Lofberg, C – Djurgarden., SWE Jr.
Round 3 – 80th overall
Born: 10.11.86 Height: 6’3 Weight: 189
Christofer Lofberg had a good season in 2004-05 for Djurgarden of the Swedish junior league, and even earned some ice time in the elite league. A big hulking winger, Lofberg is a strong skater and very hard to knock off the puck. Utilizing a powerful stride, he handles the puck well and isn’t afraid to go into high traffic areas. He benefits from good offensive instincts and has a rocket for a shot that he’s always looking to get off from anywhere on the ice.
Lofberg is a strong offensive forward, but he’s very one-dimensional. He’s always focused on putting pucks in the opposing team’s net, rather than keeping them out of his own, and he’s a major defensive liability. The big Swede doesn’t work hard enough on the backcheck and rarely sticks to his defensive assignments. While he does have good size he doesn’t always use it effectively, and needs to play tougher in the corners. An impressive package of size and skill, Lofberg could be a third-round steal, but he needs to improve his defensive coverage to progress at the next level.
Mattias Ritola, C/W – Leksand, SWE Jr.
Round 4 – 103rd overall
Born: 03.14.87 Height: 6’0 Weight: 192
Mattias Ritola is a hard-working and energetic two-way forward. He scored 26 points in 27 games last season splitting time between Frolunda and Leksand of the Swedish junior league.
Ritola is creative offensively and has good hockey sense. He sees ice time in all game situations, and he’s an excellent penalty killer, but his scoring touch could use some improvement. The Swedish winger is a decent skater, but has to work hard to create scoring opportunities. Some scouts have questioned Ritola’s attitude and work ethic, but it doesn’t appear to be a huge problem that will hinder his future development.
Darren Helm, C/LW – Medicine Hat, WHL
Round 5 – 132nd overall
Born: 01.21.87 Height: 5’11 Weight: 172
Darren Helm is a pure checking forward, and had a successful campaign with Medicine Hat in 2004-05, appearing in all 72 games for the Tigers. The Manitoba native was often lined up against the opposition’s top players, and he provided a solid defensive presence all season.
Helm is an undersized winger, and he’ll have to add strength to compete at the next level. He’ll be given every opportunity to contribute with the Tigers next season, and needs to improve his numbers to show he can be more than just a grinding winger. Helm’s work ethic helps him overcome his lack of skill, and he doesn’t back down from anybody. The biggest obstacles facing Helm are his lack of size and below average skating ability. The attitude is there to succeed, but he may not have the talent to make an impact at the professional level.
Johan Ryno, W – Kumla, SWE Jr.
Round 5 – 137th overall
Born: 06.05.86 Height: 6’4 Weight: 198
Johna Ryno is a very intriguing prospect, with great size and skating ability. He was among the scoring leaders on a talented Kumla team in the Swedish junior league last season, more than doubling his point totals from the previous season.
Ryno has decent puckhandling skills, but he’ll never amaze anyone with his moves. His best work comes in front of the net, and he uses his size and reach very well to establish position, pouncing on rebounds and loose pucks. He needs to work on his decision making in the offensive zone and increase his commitment to defense.
Ryno has signed a contract with Oskarshamn for the fall, and should be part of Sweden’s squad at the World Junior Championships.
Jeff May, D – Prince Albert, WHL
Round 5 – 151st overall
Born: 04.04.87 Height: 6’1 Weight: 186
Jeff May was a reliable contributor on Prince Albert’s blue line last season, registering 22 points in 67 games. He played in all game situations for the Raiders, making a big impression on scouts and opposing forwards.
May should take a prominent role with the Raiders next season, and his reliable play makes him a valuable commodity in the Western Hockey League. He’s steady but unspectacular, chipping in offensively will providing a solid defensive presence. The Richmond, British Columbia native is one of the younger selections of the 2005 draft class, and will have another couple years of WHL play to round out his game. The Red Wings are anticipating gradual improvement from May, and he should continue his solid play next season.
Juho Mielonen, D – Ilves, FIN Jr.
Round 6 – 175th overall
Born: 03.01.87 Height: 6’2 Weight: 187
Juho Mielonen has been a mainstay on Finnish national teams for the past four years, and he’s been a solid prospect for several years. His stock took a big jump when his club won the Finnish junior A championship and he was one of Finland’s best defenseman at the 2005 U18 world championships.
Mielonen has a big frame and his strength enables him to clear the crease and work effectively in the corners. He’s a very mobile defenseman, and moves the puck from his own end well. Mielonen will never be mistaken for an offensive threat, preferring to stay at home, but he’s always looking to make the long lead pass. He’s a consistent defender, but scouts question whether or not he has the grit and work ethic to succeed at the professional level.
Bretton Stamler, D – Seattle, WHL
Round 7 – 214th overall
Born: 03.10.87 Height: 6’1 Weight: 201
Bretton Stamler established himself as a leader on the Seattle blue line last season, posting a decent 13 points in 72 games. His defensive play improved over the previous season, and he was called upon in several crucial situations for the Thunderbirds.
Stamler is an excellent skater, possessing a keen understanding of the game and his defensive responsibilities. He is a very strong work ethic and leads his teammates by example. Stamler is always is looking to improve, and has managed to simplify his game. He’s very determined and rarely makes mistakes in his own end, but he needs to improve his offensive abilities and physical play to thrive at the professional level.
Jason Ahrens, DJ Powers, Zoran Manojlovic, Johan Nilsson, Pekka Lampinen contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.