Deep, balanced group of Detroit Red Wings prospects playing at junior level

By Adam Schnepp
Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit

Photo: Saginaw Spirit goaltender Jake Paterson was one of three Detroit Red Wings junior prospects invited to the upcoming Team Canada selection camp for the WJC. (courtesy of Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

 
The Detroit Red Wings have a great deal of prospect depth in their organization, but the vast majority of that depth is currently at the professional level. While many of Detroit’s top tier prospects are playing for either the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins or the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, there are still many prospects plying their trade at the junior level.

WHL

Marek Tvrdon, LW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round  (115th overall) in 2011

Just when things seemed to be going well, Tvrdon once again saw his season come to a close because of injury, albeit a far scarier one than the shoulder injury that ended his 2010-11 campaign. Tvrdon was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm and told that he could not play for the rest of the season. That is an improvement over the initial diagnosis, when doctors told Tvrdon that he may never be able to play again. At this point it is not known whether further surgery will be needed. Tvrdon had recorded 22 points in 18 games for the Vancouver Giants, the lowest scoring team in the WHL.

Richard Nedomlel, D, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 6th round (175th overall ) in 2011

The hulking 6’4, 220-pound defenseman plays a tough and intelligent game from the back end, though he showed a scoring touch in the 2011-12 season with a career high 46 points. Nedomlel’s point production has dropped in 2012-13, but 14 assists and no goals through 30 games does not necessarily mean that his game is regressing. He has shored up his defensive game, playing more responsibly in his own zone and using his big frame to his advantage. Nedomlel can only hope that he has shown the improvement in his defensive game that Detroit has hoped for, as his signing deadline is June 1, 2013.

OHL

Ryan Sproul, D, Sault St. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 2nd round (55th overall) in 2011

A season that was supposed to bring big things for the much-hyped Sproul was nearly derailed before it even got on track, as a broken arm suffered on October 6th knocked him out of the lineup. Initial reports said that Sproul would be out for 10 weeks, all but eliminating his chances for a spot on Team Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

However, Sproul’s injury recovery paralleled his development as a player over the last two seasons; it surprised and impressed. Sproul returned to the Greyhounds’ lineup on November 20th, well ahead of his projected return date of mid-December. He is living up to his billing as a high-octane offensive defenseman, having already recorded 17 points in just 13 games. He will still have his chance at earning a spot on Team Canada as an invite to the selection camp.

Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Barrie Colts
Acquired: 4th round (112th overall) in 2012

Long touted for his speed, Athanasiou has shown that he also has a scoring touch this season. He is practically on a point-per-game pace, recording 27 points in 28 games and showing a good ability to both score (13 goals) and distribute the puck (14 assists).

All of that scoring has helped propel Athanasiou’s Barrie Colts into first place overall in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. Perhaps the most impressive part of Athanasiou’s point production is that he has done it without playing on the same line as offensive dynamo Mark Schiefele (WPG), which means that the point production by Athanasiou is not being inflated by who he is paired with.

Jake Paterson, G, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 3rd round (80th overall) in 2012

Numbers can be deceiving, and that has never held truer than in the case of Paterson. While his goals against average is a very pedestrian 3.62 and his save percentage is a solid but unspectacular .897, Paterson’s talent is not accurately expressed in his numbers. His teammates have not been doing Paterson any favors, as he has faced 856 shots so far this season. This is the third highest shots faced total in the OHL. Despite this, Paterson has mattered to eke out a 10-11-2-1 record for the cellar-dwelling Spirit.

Perhaps a better indicator of talent lies in the honors that Paterson has racked up this season. He was invited to play in the Subway Super Series, where his OHL all-star team faced top Russian players. Paterson played 29:28 and stopped eight of the nine shots he faced. Also, Paterson will attend Team Canada's selection camp and compete for a backup goaltender spot at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.

Alan Quine, C, Peterborough Petes
Acquired: 3rd round (85th overall) in 2011

After a breakout 2011-12 season that saw Quine hit the 70-point plateau for the first time in his career, things took an unfortunate turn for the worse. Quine was diagnosed with mononucleosis and has only recently returned to the Petes’ lineup, playing in 15 games so far this year. His offensive game does not seem to have taken much of a hit, as he has scored seven goals to go along with seven assists on the year. The Red Wings projected Quine as a two-way center, but his developing propensity for scoring leaves that open to debate.

QMJHL

Martin Frk, RW, Halifax Mooseheads
Acquired: 2nd round (49th overall) in 2012

After a slow start to the season, Frk has found his stride and has begun to produce the way Detroit expected him to after using their highest pick in the 2012 draft on a player that many thought had first round potential.

Frk has leveraged the talent that he is playing with to his advantage, recording 13 goals and 23 assists in just 26 games. That talent includes top 2013 NHL Draft prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Frk continues to have a tendency to take bad penalties at bad times, but he has earned his coach’s trust enough to see valuable minutes as a part of Halifax’s first unit power play and has run the point for them.

Xavier Ouellet, D, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Acquired: 2nd round (48th overall) in 2011

Detroit has had a great deal of luck with their 2nd round draft picks over the last two years, as Ouellet has rocketed up the organizational depth chart and has quickly become one of the best prospects in the Red Wings’ system. Ouellet’s blend of leadership (he is in his second season as the Armada’s captain), defensive awareness, and scoring touch has caught the attention of many around the hockey world.

Ouellet was selected to play in the Subway Super Series and impressed with two goals and an assist. He will likely make Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team and be a part of their top-six, having already played for Team Canada during the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge in August. His solid two way game would be the main reason he may be selected, but notching five goals and 20 assists in 26 games (a feat that makes him the QMJHL’s fifth-highest scoring defenseman) has not hurt.

Philippe Hudon, C, Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: 5th round (145th overall) in 2011

Things seem to be getting back on track for Hudon, who took the requisite time to address mental health issues early in the 2011-12 season. In 27 games he has five goals and seven assists, though his game is more marked by physical play than being a scoring threat. Hudon must show something to impress the Detroit brass regardless of what area of his game it comes in, as his signing deadline is June 1, 2013.

Junior 'A'

Mike McKee, D, Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Acquired: 5th round (140th overall) in 2012

Detroit took McKee because of his size (a hulking 6’4) and toughness, and if penalty minutes are any indication then he is well on his way to developing into what the Red Wings had hoped for. He already has earned 110 penalty minutes in just 15 games, which is more than double the average penalty minutes per game that he incurred with Lincoln last season. In short, McKee is not afraid to play physically. The most interesting aspect of his development will begin next fall when he enrolls at Western Michigan University. With fighting banned in NCAA hockey McKee will have to play a different style of game while maintaining his intimidating physical presence on the ice.

James De Haas, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Acquired: 6th round (170th overall) in 2012

De Haas is a 6’2, 197-pound rearguard who skates well for his size. He has offensive abilities (evidenced by his four goals and 10 assists through 25 games in 2012-13) and can play on the power play. His play has been impressive enough to land a spot on the Canada West U19 team that won silver at the 2012 World Junior 'A' Challenge. How exactly De Haas will develop is yet to be seen, but there is plenty of time to see how things unfold. De Haas will play NCAA hockey at Clarkson University starting in 2013-14.